Wednesday, May 2, 2012
During the Holocaust in France, in a tiny mountain Huguenot village 350 miles from Paris called Le Chambon-sur-lignon, 5,000 Jews, mostly children, found shelter with 5,000 Christians, almost the entire population of the village.
As followers of Jesus, the Huguenot villagers never thought of their acts against the Nazis as heroic, but simply a living out of their faith. When they were faced with injustice & need like that of the Holocaust, it was only natural for them to respond with love & compassion that risked not only their own lives, but the lives of their children, neighbors, and their entire village.
When I hear stories like this one, I am deeply moved. I've always been a sucker for those selfless acts of heroism; an idealist of sorts that still believes one person can (and should) change the world.
It's a difficult thing, though: changing the world. It's never as cut & dry as one would like it to be. If only these things were a little more straight forward; if only there were little instruction manuals that helped you with the tough decisions, and could assure you that it was all going to work out in the end.
Right now, we are entering into the process of adopting through foster care. Chris & I decided, when we first got married, that there are far too many children out there who will never have a family, and that we could (and should) be part of the solution to that problem. And as we have heard about the problems within the foster care system, and the kids right in our own neighborhood that need a home, we have felt very compelled to live out our faith by adopting one of these little guys.
It seems to me that following Jesus involves self-sacrifice, giving generously to those on the margins, on the outside, those in need. It seems to me that acts of heroism, like those of the Huguenots during the Holocaust, should be a lifestyle rather than a notable exception from the norm. I'm not saying that any of this self-sacrifice is easy or natural, or even that I am any good at it... but it does seem that it should be a defining characteristic of a life of faith.
Now, here's the thing: Not everyone is in a place to adopt a child. Not everyone is suited to rescue sex slaves from brothels, or move to the inner city & work with gang members. Not everyone has the opportunity or capacity to rescue 5,000 Jews from the Holocaust, or lead a Civil Rights movement, bring clean water to Africa, or meet any one of the millions of heart-breaking needs out there in the world around us.
Here's the other thing: As obvious as it sounds, there is a great deal of risk in self-sacrifice... and the risk isn't always our own.
It sounds good & noble to adopt a child through foster care, and I believe that it is the right thing for us to do. But I also know that it will be incredibly difficult-- not only for Chris & myself, but for Nolan. It's a heart-wrenching, emotional process to work through a broken foster care system, and my sweet little toddler will have to pay some of that cost.
I hate that my decision to care for the marginalized will hurt my baby. I can only anticipate the things we will walk through together as a family as we welcome a new member into our home. And yet, my job as a mother is not necessarily to protect my son from pain, but to prepare him for life; to do my best to model love, generosity, faith & courage. Obviously that doesn't mean that I throw him in the deep end to teach him to swim, but I believe that it sometimes means walking together down difficult paths for the sake of others.
Those things that sounded so noble-- so obvious-- when I was in college feel different now walking through them than they seemed from a distance. It's one thing to count the cost of selfless service, but it's another thing entirely to pay it.
I don't know where the balance lies when it comes to caring for your own children and serving others'. It seems like something you carefully weigh out day by day & moment by moment, rather than a line drawn in the sand. I think of all the beautiful acts of heroism throughout history and am so grateful that there are people who chose to risk their own family's security for the sake of others... but I also wonder what their families were thinking & feeling in the moment, and if they believed it was worth it.
I'm not claiming any act of heroism in my own life, but I know that what we are entering into will be difficult & costly. I wish that I could absorb all of that cost into myself, and yet at the same time, I know the depth, richness, and even privilege it can be to love sacrificially, and I don't want to take that opportunity away from my little boy. My hope is that we would live a life of daily, hourly generosity in the big things and in the everyday moments. I wish that I was more natural, more consistent in living out my values & beliefs, and I hope that this next step would simply be in line with those of my Creator.