When a child is placed into a family as a "foster child", the arrangements are usually meant to be temporary. Unless the foster family and the birth parents are amenable to adoption, that child will remain in the "foster system". They really don't "belong" to any family - they are simply being cared for under the roof of a family who cares deeply about their well-being. When a family moves toward adoption, the situation is a little different - the family is saying they want to make things "permanent" and "binding" in this relationship they have been "fostering". Fostering implies the willingness to "bring up" and "care for" the child - there is a certain amount of nurturing which accompanies this relationship - almost like a mentoring relationship. Adoption implies something entirely different - for in the action of adoption, the parent takes as their own the one who is from outside their family - giving them their name. At first, giving someone a name may seem a little insignificant, but within a name, much is established. The right of "inheritance" is part of this "name" deal. So, with adoption comes not only being taken as one's own, but it also places the one who assumes the name of the new family a position as an heir. When God deals with us, he doesn't just foster us, he adopts us into his family - with a new name, new standing, and the full rights of an heir.
All of you are God’s children because of your faith in Christ Jesus. And when you were baptized, it was as though you had put on Christ in the same way you put on new clothes. Faith in Christ Jesus is what makes each of you equal with each other, whether you are a Jew or a Greek, a slave or a free person, a man or a woman. (Galations 3:26-28 CEV)
It is faith which must be fostered - nurtured until their is this full desire to become part of the family with any sense of permanence. God sets about this action of "fostering" our faith - first planting a seed of faith small enough within us to begin to take root. As we are exposed to the family of God more and more, we begin to experience the nurturing of that faith - until one day it takes full bloom and we say yes to Jesus. As we say yes to him, we are saying yes to a new name. We are acknowledging the desire to become part of the family of God - to leave our past identity behind and take on the new! In turn, we come into this place of being a full heir.
I wonder how many of us stop short of becoming full heirs in this family simply because we are not quite willing to sever the relationship we have with our old "family" relationship? You see, as long as we hold onto the past, we cannot embrace the present, nor explore the possibilities of the future. I have spoken often of needing to make this transition - moving from being a "foster child" into this place of being fully "adopted". Something happens in this "ceremony" we call baptism. There is an "exchange" of sorts - a severing of our ties with the past and an embracing of our new family "ties". What is symbolized in going into the water and coming out again is this idea of leaving the old behind in the water - raising into the newness of this relationship of grace and love we call being a part of God's family.
Another thing which happens when we move from just being "fostered" in God's family into being fully "adopted" is this idea of being made "equal" with each other. The foster child has no real share in the inheritance, although the foster parents may make out a will and designate a portion of their inheritance to them, if they desire. As the fostered child moves into the place of being fully adopted into the family, this places them in a different position. In an earthly sense, there is no "guarantee" being a child - either naturally born into the family or adopted - makes you certain of an inheritance. I have heard of people leaving all their earthly wealth and treasures to their cat, or giving them away to charitable organizations. Yet, there is an "exchange" of sorts which occurs at the point of adoption - one which actually carries some "emotional" security which was lacking while just being fostered.
As we look around us, we see many who are probably in that fostering relationship - not quite "secure" yet in the family. These kids are being nurtured, learning to settle into the idea of permanent relationship. It is an awesome thing to watch one move from fostered care into family ties. The emotional "switch" seems to be flipped. There is a sense of deep security which comes when one recognizes they are "wanted", "loved", and "treasured". I think this is what God does for us - he ensures us we have great value to him, fostering his love and grace in us until we are willing to be embraced fully into the 'permanence' of his care. To stop short of this is really not what God desires. For each of us, this point of "flipping the switch" is different. Some will readily embrace this exchange of position, but others need time. All we can do is pray for those who are being "fostered" in is care - for in time, he will help them make the transition into full adoption! Just sayin!