May 19, 2015

No Longer an Orphan

“I waited patiently for the Lord;
He turned to me and heard 
my cry.” 
– Psalm 40:1

We see their sweet faces when we open our e-mail, or when we visit the website of waiting children, or when someone posts their pictures on social media.  They are the children who, after spending much of their childhood in the unpredictable, unstable foster care system, are looking for permanency, a family of their own.1  They are the children in orphanages on the other side of the world who have never known what it means to have parents, who pray every night for a family who will love them.2  Or perhaps most tragic of all, they are the children who were adopted, who thought that they were going to live happily ever after, but who are now in need of a new adoptive home.3

We see their pictures, their eyes filled, understandably, with deep sadness, or, inexplicably, with steadfast hope.  Those eyes fill our tender hearts with deep compassion, and we can’t help but respond. . .

“Aww!  She is so cute!”
“Look at those beautiful curls!”
“I just love that face!”
“I would bring them all home if I could.”

We cry at the injustice of it all, the unfairness that some children want for nothing, while others have nothing they want.  It’s almost as if we can hear their cries, their pleas to be rescued from their plight – their lonely, precarious, frightening circumstances.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, 
out of the mud and mire. – Psalm 40:2a

We see their faces and hear their cries, and we must respond.  We cannot turn away as if we had never seen.  When we say, “Aww, that just breaks my heart!” and then do nothing, it is unacceptable.  Feeling compassion simply isn’t enough; we must act with compassion.  When God hears our cries, He does something.  He doesn’t just feel compassion for us, He acts.  He lifts us out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire.  If we want to show God’s love in a tangible, visible, genuine way, we must respond, not with words and sentiments, but with deeds and actions.

Perhaps we say, “If a child showed up at my door, I wouldn’t turn him away.”  Well, that is a noble idea, but guess what?  Those half a million children who need a safe place to sleep tonight?  They don’t know where we live.  And even if they did, they can’t drive.  They can’t afford an airline ticket, nor do they have any way of obtaining a passport.  They are completely at the mercy of the child welfare officials, the people who will only take them to licensed foster homes and families with approved home studies.  So no, it is highly unlikely that an orphaned child, in need of a loving family, will ever come knocking on our door.

What if God had said this?  It’s really too bad that those people are lost and alone and helpless.  I feel bad for them, and have even shed a tear or two when I heard their story. If they can ever find the path to My door, I won’t turn them away.  No!  Thank God He did not say that!  Instead, He promised, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18)

Can we do any less?  We need to go to them.  We need to bravely pick up the phone and make the call to get the information packet.  We need to faithfully attend the training classes, diligently complete the required paperwork, humbly agree to a home study and abide by the rules and requirements and laws.  We simply cannot leave them as unwanted, forgotten and abandoned.  We cannot leave them as orphans.

He set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand. – Psalm 40:2b

These children are frightened and vulnerable, and if they grow up without the stability and support of a family, are at a terrible risk of experiencing unemployment, homelessness, prostitution, crime, and early death.4  Having even one person who will commit to them and become invested in their future can make all the difference.  How they long for safety and security, the “rock” of a family!  How they long for the assurance that someone loves them and will never give up on them!

Sure, once a child is lifted “out of the mud and mire” it can get pretty messy.  There may be enduring fear and anxiety.  There may be terrible habits of self-preservation and mistrust that make close relationships seem almost impossible.  There may even be physical scars, the unmistakable evidence of violence, neglect, sexual abuse, and abandonment.

However, just as the Lord sets our feet on a rock and gives us a firm place to stand, we can provide a dear child with a solid place to plant his feet.  We can teach and train and mentor and guide and counsel, doing everything in our power to give him the tools that he will need to succeed.  We can provide him with consistency and support and encouragement – all the things that will help instill in him a sense of security that he has never known before.  A sense of confidence and a daily reminder that he is loved.  That he is no longer an orphan.

He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God. – Psalm 40:3

How can a child who lives with daily threat of starvation, or in constant fear, or with frequent hurt and disappointment and loneliness – how can that child possibly sing?  How can he face a bleak future with any sense of hope and expectation?  How can he begin to understand what it means to have a loving heavenly Father, when he has never known an earthly one?

We have been given the greatest gift imaginable, a priceless treasure!  We know the God of Yesterday – the One who heard our cries and rescued us from the pit.   Because of Him, we are no longer orphans.  No longer do we need to depend on ourselves, on our own strength and courage and cleverness.  No longer do we need to live with shame, with fear and worry, in isolation.    We know the One who, because of His great mercy, has called us His children.5

We know the God of Today – the One who sustains us and lovingly provides for our every need.  The One who, in spite of our messiness, continues to patiently teach us and lead us, never giving up on us.

We know the God of Tomorrow - the One who gives us a reason to rejoice.  The One who puts a new song in our mouths, a hymn of praise!  The One who fills our hearts with hope and possibility and the assurance that no matter what happens, He will never leave us.

How can we not share this gift?  How can we keep it to ourselves?  How can we not welcome a little child in His name, introducing him to the One who is able to make a signifant difference in his life?  An eternal difference?6

Many will see and fear 
and put their trust in the Lord. – Psalm 40:3b

May we see their sweet faces and hear their desperate cries.  May we share their stories and feel deep compassion.  But more importantly, may we act with compassion.  And some day, they too will know this incredible gift of having, not only an earthly family, but a forever family.  They too will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.  Some day, they will join with us in our song of praise.  Some day they too will be able to join us in saying with full confidence and assurance, “I am no longer an orphan.”

4.            Every 2.2 seconds an orphan ages out with no family to belong to and no place to call home.  In Russia and Ukraine, studies have shown that 10-15% of these children commit suicide before they reach the age of 18.  These studies also show that 60% of the girls become prostitutes and 70% of the boys become hardened criminals.
5.            How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! – 1 John 3:1
6.            And whoever welcomes a little child like this in My name welcomes me. – Matthew 18:5

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