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Recently we took our kids to a rodeo. It was a pretty predictable event overall, bucking horses, roped calves, barrel racing, clowns joking, and bulls – big, bad, snot-flinging bulls. We’ve been to many rodeos over the years, and I thought I’d seen it all. This time, however, there was a first experience for us. The announcer invited all those who were 18 and older to consider participating in “The Ring of Fear.” I had no idea what that was, and I certainly wasn’t going to jump into the ring! But I figured I’d stay around to see what it was.

As the time drew near for the Ring of Fear, my wife told me that they were planning to release a bull into the ring. I was convinced that due to insurance purposes (and common sense) there was no way they’d actually do that. The announcer said to the two young ladies who’d signed up to participate that the last one left in the ring would win the $100 prize. Still, I thought it just had to be a joke on the crowd – that some clown would come out of the bull chute. I mean, who would intentionally put themselves in harms way? But I was most definitely wrong!

The sound went off and the bull chute opened. About 1,800 pounds of ticked-off bull came charging out of the chute, went straight for one of the young ladies and slammed her backwards onto the ground. The reason for her wearing the protective vest became painfully clear. Thankfully she got up and walked away. I walked away too – shaking my head incredulously at such foolishness (that I enjoyed immensely!).

I recently was in a conversation with someone about foster care and adoption. The person politely listened for a bit and then said reflectively, “I would think that you are opening yourself up to a lot of pain and heartbreak.” To which I responded, “Yes, of course you are. But since when is our goal in life to avoid all pain and heartbreak?”

Jesus said, “Deny yourself. Take up your cross daily and follow me.” It sounds like Jesus expects us to intentionally choose a path of cross-centered, Gospel promoting, mercy-laden living with a view to impact the marginalized in Jesus’ name. “Follow me!” Jesus said. And then He went to the cross. Why should we take a detour when the shadow of the cross looms across the sunlight of our ease and relaxation?

Jesus also said on more than one occasion, “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy; not sacrifice.’” Perhaps the cost of mercy is the blood of the benefactor? It certainly was for Jesus. Maybe it includes the shedding of our own pursuit of the self-life and embracing pain and heartbreak.

There are many ways to impact the marginalized in Jesus’ name. But when you choose the path of caring for those who are powerless you open yourself up to the pain and heartache associated with the brokenness of their lives. It should come as no surprise that when we step into the mire of messed-up people’s lives that some of the hardship they have experienced splashes onto us, disturbing our peace.

Adoption and fostering is a path of choosing which type of heartache and pain you’ll experience for Jesus and His eternal Kingdom. Jesus stepped into our pain and calls us to honor Him by stepping into the pain of others. In doing so God’s Kingdom advances in the lives of people one hurt heart at a time. Let’s embrace pain and heartbreak together for the glory of God.

The temporal prize ($100) given to that young lady brave enough to face the wrath of the bull is probably already spent. The eternal prize of the souls of the suffering made whole in Jesus is of ultimate value.