Four years ago, my wife, Jenny, and I became foster parents to two sisters, ages 6 and 8. Two years later, they became permanent members of our family through adoption. It was a frightening journey at times, but Christ’s redemptive power helped me in my moments of weakness. Like the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12, I am grateful that my weakness compelled me to lean on Christ in difficult situations, allowing Him to lead my heart.
I never really thought about foster parenting or adoption. I simply figured that I would one day marry, and that my wife and I would together create a “traditional” family. My plan wasn’t actually a plan; it was an assumption. The longer I remained single, however, the more it seemed like a distant dream, and traditional fatherhood seemed less likely.
As I grew older and realized that many single women my age were already mothers, I wondered if I would end up being a father to someone else’s child. That possibility seemed more likely than my original dream, and I starting getting used to the idea. I even felt a tug on my heart whenever a sermon reminded me of the duty we have as Christians to care for the fatherless. But what could one single guy do about that?
Then, in my late 30s, God blessed me with Jenny. I quickly reverted to presumptive thoughts about fatherhood: It would just happen, right? Certainly, this wasn’t anything I needed to pray about. So, it was with incredulity that I entered my 40s without children, but with the pain of infertility instead.
I felt foolish about my prior assumptions. I worried that my wife wouldn’t experience motherhood. I felt helpless and afraid, angry and sad. I hadn’t anticipated this. In our fallen world, I discovered, we often fail to anticipate with much precision.
As the result of much prayer, Scripture reading and the example of mentors, Jenny and I began foster parent training. It was a new world to us, but our ignorance, fear and anxiety soon turned to inspiration, confidence and eagerness. We still felt the pain of infertility, but we recognized that through foster care – responding to the brokenness of mistreated children – we could be an avenue for God’s redemption and restoration.
As soon as we met the girls, my fatherly protective instincts kicked in. I wanted to do everything for them. I was a new character in a new chapter of life, charged by righteous adrenaline and spiritual duty. Encouraged by the support and prayers of so many friends and loved ones, and by observing the loving way that Jenny mothered the girls, I sensed that while our later-in-life marriage was not my plan, God still had a divine purpose for us.
Of course, the moments of joy and triumph were mixed with difficulties and challenges and hurts, for both us and the girls. But I’ve also witnessed many amazing moments of healing in each of our lives.
I’ve often heard it said of foster parenting (by myself included), “I could never … ” Fill in the rest of that sentence with whatever challenge you fear, but I’ve learned from experience that yes, you can. You just need to bring a willing heart, and the Lord will bring the rest.
Lincoln Knowles lives with his wife, Jenny, and two daughters in Joplin, Missouri.