It started with a book a friend gave Bob and me a few years ago. No Longer Orphans, by James S. Macchi, had been catching my eye the past several months. Since we began helping our church start a ministry for adoptive families, I decided it was time to dig into spiritual orphanhood.
(Surely, I didn’t personally need to look at this.)
And then the very week I started reading this book, a member of the life-group we lead asked if we could watch the video series by Austin Stone Community Church called Adopted
So I followed God’s promptings and as a result I’m learning truths too amazing not to share with you.
What is an orphan?
The most basic definition of an orphan is a child, under age 18, who’s lost both parents to death. In its expanded definition, it includes children whose parents are unknown or who have permanently abandoned them.
Ouch! I hate this tragic reality. I could write volumes on the impact such loss has on a child.
That’s why something in me wants to shout, How dare we go through life living as if we’ve been orphaned by God?! It’s not fair to the real orphans in this world, and it’s the ultimate rejection of our loving heavenly Father.
But we do.
Satan is so devious, beguiling us into believing that God doesn’t love us or have our best in mind. He convinces us that God has abandoned us.
It began in the garden.
It started with an itty bitty seed of doubt. “Did God really say …?” And then an accusation that God lied. “Surely not! For God knows …” And the man and woman fell into the trap of doubt, swallowed the lies, and disobeyed (Genesis 3).
And a line in the sand was drawn.
A line that sided man with the arch enemy of God.
A chasm that yawned bottomless and unspanable.
To protect His children from living eternally in their fearful and separated state, God had to protect them from eating from the tree of life. So He sent them out of the garden, closed the door, and stationed an angel to prevent re-entry.
And once again Satan falsely accused God. This time of abandonment.
Spiritual orphanhood has been based on lies since the very beginning. No wonder we struggle with trust.
Trust in the Father sets us on solid ground where we can slip off the unpredictable teeter-totter and run into His embrace. Whereas trust in lies exalts our own thinking, dangling us high in the air of instability and fear.
So am I an orphan too?
No. I’m not. I have—always have had—a Father who loves me.
Do I sometimes act like an orphan?
Yes, I do. I’m convinced we all do.
• We approach our to-do lists in frenzied self-reliance, convinced success depends on us. This leaves us limp before the powers of irritability and inadequacy.
• Insecurity, isolation, judgmentalism, and unforgiveness undermine relationships with those closest to us.
• We make decisions without consulting God, either because we don’t believe He has our best interests in mind, or because we don’t think He’s cares enough to get involved.
• Difficulties meant to strengthen our trust in the Father, spur self-pity, a victimization mentality, and anger.
• We fail to distinguish truth from lies, believing things about God that are grossly contrary to His character.
• Shame drives us into hiding from the very One who gave His life to free us from its bonds.
• We cower behind fig leaves of guilt instead of running butt naked—openly, unashamedly, and with total delight—into safe Arms that scoop us up, toss us high, and hold us close.
So what can we do about this false idea that we’re orphans too?
I think we need to work on the trust piece.
I find it interesting that the part of our brain the manages our ability to trust is developed before the part that thinks and reasons. My initial answer to the above question was “truth.” But, actually, I’m not sure that’s right.
We can quote Scripture all day, and it might help a little. But in reality trust is developed through experiences. (A baby cries and his needs are met—thousands of times in the first year of life.) Trust matures when truth is applied. But the foundation is set through experiences.
In children with broken attachment, the best methods for developing trust is a combination of experiences and logic (truth):
Talking in comforting voices
Learning to use words to identify feelings, needs, and requests
Practice speaking those words respectfully
The granting of requests as much as possible
Using empowering ways to say no when necessary
Consistent and firm, but kind, expression of expectations
Notice the logic piece here is not about the reliability of parents. An orphaned child is (usually) carefully placed in a safe and loving home. So though the child doesn’t believe this yet, it’s true. Again, truth isn’t what’s going to help this child develop trust. Therefore, the child is still going to feel and behave like an orphan even when they aren’t.
Spiritually, it’s already established that God is safe and trustworthy. But Satan works hard, and often successfully, at eroding our trust in God. God designed us so that a trusting relationship with Him grows in us somewhere deeper than in our frontal cortex.
I have a feeling that just as the above list helps a wounded child develop trust in caring adults, these methods can also be used to develop authentic trust in God.
At it’s very base, trust begins when we gets to the root of our needs—finding words to express what we feel and what we want.
After all, isn’t this where Satan planted doubt in human souls in the first place? Questioning if God cared about or was willing to address our needs?
And what about the verse that says, “You have not because you ask not” (James )? Maybe it starts with learning to ask.
One way to internalize the truth that we are beloved children of God instead of orphans is to keep a journal. (*Worksheets available. I tell you how below.)
• Identify where we feel our greatest need. Don’t worry about if it’s a legitimate need. The Father will help with that later. Begin by writing down what we feel our need is. In fact, a pastor at our church recently said to ask why seven times. Why do you feel this? Because … Why do you feel that? Because … – keep asking until you get to the root issue.
• Then envision yourself climbing into God’s lap, looking deep into His eyes, and asking Him to meet that need. Even if it seems untrue and totally illogical, we do this by faith.
• Then pay attention to how He responds. How does He say yes. How does He say no. (Not necessarily what words does He use, but in what ways does He answer.)
Here’s the deal. God won’t just provide the substance required to fill our deepest needs. He IS that substance. But somehow we’ve got to allow Him to not just speak that to our frontal cortex; we’ve got to let Him take us to that infant-squalling, I-can’t-survive-without-you place, and then experience Him completely satisfying us with Himself.
And you know what that means? A hunger-pang painful awareness of our total lack. And being in a place of total dependence.
But you know what else that means? He will show up in ways we never imagined. More than a full stomach, we’ll get to loose ourselves in the smile of His eyes, snuggle close enough to hear His heartbeat, and fall asleep in the safety of His embrace.
And then we won’t just know because we’ve memorized the words; we’ll comprehend in the depths of our souls that we are children of the most high God.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1, NIV).
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