My church recently did a women’s event where we talked through the different kinds of spiritual gifts people may have. We took a test (an imperfect but useful tool) to help us identify our own giftedness and then worked through how we can use that within our church and to do ministry outside our church. It has been interesting to me to see how God has used the way he made me in the realm of foster care. At first glance, it wouldn’t seem to be a natural fit.
I’ve written before about my rather emotionless personality and about how I struggle with issues of control when it comes to foster parenting. I remember when we were doing group home work one of the ladies we worked with was taking a class where one of the requirements was that you study the particular gifts of a certain population. She gave all of the employees of the children’s home a spiritual gifts inventory to take and then scored and analyzed the results. I remember her coming to me later and saying, “Out of the 30 or so people who work here, you are just about the only one who doesn’t test highly in having compassion or mercy gifts. What are you doing here?” She was a person I loved and respected and the question wasn’t offensive at all to me, only humorous. It was a question I had asked myself many times. What is a pretty compassionless person doing working in a ministry that seems to be so compassion based?
I have continued to wrestle with that issue, but I have seen how God has used what might seem like a deficiency to be a strength. I don’t get pulled down into the potentially overwhelming emotions of foster care. I am able to think about the “whys” of abuse and neglect situations without just getting angry at the abusers. I can be a good advocate in tense situations without being swayed by a sob story.
And in my years of working with families in crisis, I have also become a much more compassionate and merciful person. It isn’t what comes naturally to me or even what I understand my spiritual giftedness to be, but it has been a way I have seen God use this experience to refine me. I’m thankful for that maturing in my life and I see the positive implications in other relationships I have.
So this is how I want to challenge you: If you are on the fence about foster parenting because you feel like maybe this isn’t your gift, I want you to know that it isn’t mine either. This process of loving and losing doesn’t come naturally to anyone. It is a challenge that we take on because we know it is right and we fear for these children if the only people who are willing to care for them are people who don’t get invested enough to get their hearts broken. It may not be the most natural use of my gifts, but it is what God has asked me to do.
Whatever your personality type, whatever your spiritual gift, God can use you. You may have been uniquely created to be the best person to minister to this particular family or this hurting child. Your gift of administration can be used to help keep a child’s team on the same page or work out a functioning visitation schedule. Your gift of hospitality may mean foster kids feel blessed to come into a home that just feels warm and inviting. Your gift of discernment may help caseworkers see when someone is attempting to be manipulative. Your gift of teaching may enable you to help impart parenting skills to a mom who is struggling.
God can use you as you are to love these kids. He isn’t only calling one kind of personality or temperament or gift to minister to His children. We all bring something unique and special to the table. Don’t discount what you may have to offer because it doesn’t seem like a natural fit with the work that is required. I think sometimes God delights in using us in spite of ourselves.