Today in church two young missionaries full of the Spirit and enthusiasm spoke, appropriately enough, about sharing the gospel and serving others. More specifically, they mentioned what keeps people from doing so when they know it’s the right thing to do. One of the young men noted that there are three main reasons why people are motivated to do things (or not do things): Reward, Love, or Fear.
I immediately thought of another reason to add to the list of motivating factors: Guilt. Perhaps guilt is not as noble a reason to do something as love, but when I feel compelled to exercise or eat better, for example, it’s not necessarily because I’m thinking of the rewards of better health, or because I love getting on my treadmill or because I’m afraid of having a heart attack, but simply out of guilt.
I also thought about the reasons why I fail to do things and I can definitely see how fear plays a role. In fact, if I could summarize in one word the number one reason why my husband and I didn’t become foster parents sooner I would definitely say FEAR.
So why did we end up fostering when we were so fearful and hesitant at first? I think it has to do with those nagging feelings that kept creeping up and just wouldn’t go away. I refer to them as “nagging” feelings when I didn’t want to listen, but when I was more faith-filled than fear-filled I guess I would actually call them inspiration. Whatever you want to call those feelings- nagging, promptings, intuition, inspiration, I’ve noticed that many other foster families share a similar theme in their stories and reasons for fostering- it’s almost a “calling” they feel they’ve been given or duty assigned to them.
Two other main reasons people choose to become foster parents are
1) Pure altruism: simply wanting to help children out of a sense of love, and
2) Wanting to adopt a child.
Of course, oftentimes things aren’t so black and white and people could choose to foster for a combination of reasons. In our case, we did so primarily because of those feelings that we were “supposed to”, so it wouldn’t be completely honest to say I did so completely out of altruism or without any thought of “reward” because it would, in fact, be very nice to be able to do foster care as a means to the end of another child joining our family. In fact, I often get jealous of families who end up being able to adopt their very first placement. “Not fair!” I think to myself. “They don’t have to go through any of the heartache.” Then again, I wouldn’t trade the opportunity I’ve had to be able to interact with the parents of our foster children- even though it hasn’t always been easy. There is much to learn from “sharing” a child with someone. It is truly a humbling and refining experience. Speaking of which . . . we’re looking forward to meeting Christian and his dad in the near future for the first time since reunification. His dad has full-time custody now.
Back to the topic of fear and it’s antidote, FAITH and it’s sister attribute, LOVE: I wish I could say that once we made the choice to become foster parents that all of our fears were put at ease, but it’s more realistic to say that with each and every call we get for a placement the fears creep back up and it’s a constant battle of faith. With our most recent call for a placement, I was particularly confused about distinguishing my own feelings and desires from the Holy Spirit. I think my biggest concern was that overall I felt that taking the placement was a good thing, regardless of if it ends up in reunification or adoption, but I just had so many “What Ifs” about the child: What if they have attachment issues? What if they are a holy terror? What if my daughter gets her heart broken again when it’s time to say goodbye? What if the birthparents hate us for having their child and try to track us down and stalk us?
I took some time to pray and consulted the scriptures because I can always use some extra help from someone much wiser than I. As I was browsing through the pages I had one of those experiences (when I actually take the time to do so, that is- I’m far from perfect) where the verses I came across seemed to speak just to me and my unique situation. I was so comforted that the verses I came across had to do with doubting not and fearing not and giving cheerfully and being obedient. I also read some verses about sowing what you reap and remembering what it feels like to receive inspiration.
“Fear nor to do good, my sons, for whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye also reap; therefore, if ye sow good ye shall also reap good for your reward.
Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.” -Doctrine and Covenants 6:36
“He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
Every man as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” -2 Corinthians 9:7
“Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the Spirit of truth.”
Did I not speak peace unto your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?” -Doctrine and Covenants 6:15, 23
Other than the written words which served as a confirmation to me, I got a feeling that I should “JUST DO IT” even if it is hard and presents some challenges. Just because we’re told to do something doesn’t necessarily guarantee it’s going to be easy and this placement may very well be a difficult one, but whether it’s easy or not isn’t the important thing, it’s obeying that’s important. A story comes to mind of a man who was commanded to push against a large rock. He did again and again with all his night and the boulder never budged. He thought he was a failure because he couldn’t get it to move but the Lord reminded him that he wasn't necesarilly supposed to move the rock, he was just supposed to obey and push against it.
BOTTOM LINE: When we have more FAITH than fear we will be filled with HOPE and LOVE and one of the scriptures that one of the missionaries shared in church was “There is no fear in LOVE; but PERFECT LOVE CASTETH OUT FEAR” -1 John 4: 18
What a great reminder of the best motivation to keep foremost in our hearts and minds.
I’ve rambled on enough, tell me your thoughts on the subject:
Those out there who have a desire to foster but have not yet done so (perhaps you’re one of those who has a “nagging” feeling in the back of your mind):
What is it that keeps you from doing so? (I won’t judge you . . . I’m just curious)
What are your motivations for wanting to foster?
What is your motivation(s) for fostering?
How do you subdue your fears about fostering (if you have them) and keep your faith and love revitalized?