In 30 minutes I’m heading to Tulsa to tell our foster care stories at the Oklahoma Foster Care Forum.
The oft-quoted Jerry Seinfeld said, “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that seem right? That means to the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
I’m not sure how true this is, but I do know that later on this morning I will be in Tulsa standing up in front of a large-ish crowd at the Tulsa version of the Oklahoma Foster Care Forum. And I will sort of wish I was dead.
Speaking in front of crowds has never been something I’ve aspired to. I’m much more comfortable behind a computer screen or in a living room. So when I was asked last April to speak at the Oklahoma City version of the Oklahoma Foster Care Forum I suggested that Craig and I do it together instead, knowing that if Craig was there I would default and make him do the bulk of the speaking. That plan didn’t work out, though, and I found myself with 2,155 type written words tucked inside a purple folder with white flowers on it, willing myself to stand up in front of a bunch of people I’d never seen before (and a few I see all the time) and not die.
Fast forward to after that event – I did not die. I also didn’t turn into John “Golden Mouth” Chrysostom or anything. It wasn’t my favorite thing to do ever, but it really didn’t kill me either, so there’s that. I think my comfort level increased by the fact that the topic I was presenting on was one about which I am passionate. I’m generally quiet by nature, but if you start asking me about the foster care crisis in Oklahoma, I suddenly build a soapbox and jump up on it. Because we really do have a foster care crisis in Oklahoma and I think most of us are content to defer to our preference for convenience as a way to excuse our lack of involvement in the biblical mandate to care for widows and orphans.
Speaking on the topic of foster care is one thing, but sometimes it takes more than rhetoric to show you believe something to be true; sometimes it takes getting your hands dirty. Sometimes it means getting buried in what feels like a grave of bureaucracy in order to be available to do the necessary thing to which God calls His Church. Sometimes it means providing meals and meeting needs for other families who have given themselves to the task. And sometimes it means being willing to die to self in front of a large group of people and take a personal risk at the gain of stirring the heart of even one more family toward the cause of foster care.
Because some things require sacrifice, be it time, money, public speaking, or all of the above; for me, foster care has become that thing.
All of us are called to die to ourselves for the sake of the gospel. The oft-quoted Luke 9:23-25 reminds us, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” The question is, what does that cross look like? It should look a lot more like work gloves than Facebook status updates. It should feel more scary than safe. And it should come from conviction not condemnation.
Because that’s how the gospel works.