Category Archives: Orphan Heart

She’s Not an Orphan

Recently, Eden’s foster father, took her to the state orphanage for a quarterly medical check up. While waiting in the midst of screaming children and hurried adults, a woman looked at Eden and asked, “Is she an orphan?” As the words left the woman’s mouth, the foster father felt Eden’s hand tense up and begin to squeeze his tighter. She nervously looked up at him waiting for a response. He smiled and confidently told the woman, “no, she’s not an orphan…she’s got a daddy and mommy and a sister and two brothers that love her very much.” Upon hearing this truth, a big smile flooded Eden’s face, instantly washing away the pensive cracks that were formerly there. Her joy was obvious as she swung her hand in his back and forth with glee.

As Eden’s father, the story was touching and telling for me. Touching for obvious reasons. Telling because it revealed the uncertainty of Eden’s upbringing. Nothing has been certain in her first nine years of life. Very little is for most orphans. Yes, she had the tentative certainty of food, clothing and shelter. Most orphans don’t even have that. But she, like all orphans, lacked the certainty of love. Can you imagine not having anyone permanent in your life? No one to be a constant source of stability, comfort and encouragement? No one who knows you, remembers you, protects you or loves you unconditionally? Eden never had any of that. The power of love and the permanence of family was never hers to be had, that is, until now. Very soon, she will be a part of our family. While she has been reminded of this many times, I know it can never be said often enough. After all, why would a young girl who never had a forever family suddenly believe it simply because people told her so? I know our arrival will help assure Eden of her new life’s constancy. But, I also know that she will still need to be continually reminded that she is not an orphan.

Orphan identities are not easy to lose. They tend to linger if gone unchecked especially when doubt and difficulty inevitably come. I trust that time and faithfulness will help but ultimately Eden will need to be reminded of the perpetuity of perfect love. Not her family’s love for her although that is important. She needs to be reminded of THE Father’s great love for her. He knew her before her most inward parts were formed. She was made fearfully and wonderfully by him. He has a plan for her life not for calamity but for blessing. Only the eternal immutability of the Father’s love through Christ can free Eden of an orphan heart. That’s the only thing that could free the prodigal son of his. That’s the only thing that can free me of mine. I pray that my family would be a faithful, albeit imperfect, incarnation of his love that Eden might truly believe that she’s no longer an orphan and will never be ever again.

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The Adoption Project

Here’s some information about an exciting new website that was recently launched. Check it out!The Adoption Journey Project has now launched a new website built for couples starting to think about adoption. The website, now available at www.AdoptionJourney.org is a collaborative effort between Bethany Christian Services, Lifeline Children’s Services and Lifesong for Orphans.  The significance of this new web-based resource is that it is aimed to be a resource early in their consideration process. You can read the recent announcement about AdoptionJourney.org here.

One of the first resources they have published is a ever-growing collection of story vignettes of other families’ adoption journey — highlighting various circumstances and calling.  A second section of the site invites couples going through adoption right now to share their adoption journey with a family page. And in response to the consistent issue that couples bring up about financing adoption, they have added an option for a personal fundraising module too.

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The Girl Who Used to Cry

Last week, I shared that Eden recently wrote a journal entry that began with the words, “I used to be a girl who loved to cry, but now I don’t like crying anymore…” These words are simple but significant. For they reveal an inner struggle that is going on within Eden’s heart. Every orphan goes through some kind of grieving process to mourn the loss of the life they once knew. This process is necessary and healthy but can also be quite challenging for the newly adopted child as well as her adoptive family.

It is hard enough for a former orphan to come to grips with what she is feeling let alone try to articulate why. In our case, the communication challenge is compounded since Eden’s first language is Mandarin and her disability severely hinders her speech. Therefore, I savor her written words. “I used to be a girl who loved to cry but now I don’t like crying anymore…” means so much to me. These words tell me that Eden was comfortable with her orphan identity (loved to cry) but is slowly embracing her new one as a beloved child (I don’t like crying anymore). They also tell me that she recognizes that there is a definite change happening in her heart. Evidence that God is truly answering our ongoing requests for Eden’s orphan heart to be relinquished. The less Eden loves to cry, the more I cry tears of joy and thanksgiving.

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Knowing and Living

Over the past few months, I have been reading and writing a lot about God the Father. I believe this process is vital in God answering my prayer request to “know the Father’s heart.” In my research, there have been a variety of books that have been helpful in building my theological understanding of the Father. They are: The Doctrine of God by John Frame, Father, Son and Holy Spirit by Andreas J. Kostenberger, The Deeper Things of God by Fred Sanders, Knowing the Father through the OT by Christopher Wright

But, in regards to the practical implications of the love of the Father and sonship, “Spiritual Slavery to Spiritual Sonship,” by late author, Jack Frost, has been extremely helpful. I love good theology but I believe theology was meant for worship not academics. In other words, a rich understanding of God should drive us to love God more and compel us to live more fully for him. While learning what the Bible reveals about the Father has renewed my mind and anchored my worship in truth, living it out in daily life has not been as clear or easy. That’s where Frost’s book and curriculum like “Sonship” by World Harvest Mission come in handy.

Currently, I have been blogging a lot less frequently not only because I have been studying the transforming power of God’s love but also because I have been experiencing it firsthand. While the end goal of this process is glorious, the means to getting there is not always fun. For it requires me to recognize a lack of faith and a lot of sin. My inability to live as a son is hindered by my self-sufficiency, my self-centeredness, and self-reliance. Facing these sins is a necessary but painful step toward freedom in Christ and rest in him.

Over the next month, I will be pondering and applying some of the things that I am learning about living as a son. As I do, I will occasionally share some of those reflections in this blog and ultimately in a sermon series at our church. Please pray for God’s grace in my life as I continue in this process to experience and express the heart of the Father.

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My Orphan Heart

Previously, I attempted to define the nature of an orphan heart. As believers, we are adopted by the Father through the sacrifice of the Son. Yet, despite being accepted into God’s household, many of us live the lie of an orphan heart. Ironically, (providentially) ever since writing the last entry, I have been coming face-to-face with my own orphan attitude in the context of every day life.

How did I recognize it? It came out in the way that I felt and reacted in the face of adversity. As I recently experienced some disappointments in the ministry and faced potential delays in the adoption process, I saw my orphan heart arise. It was always there but maybe I was just more keen this week to the lies it typically whispers. As I faced personal setbacks, my orphan heart concluded, “He doesn’t understand, otherwise…” “He’s punishing you because…” “He doesn’t seem to love you today…” “You better do something to impress him…”

Obviously, these are all lies. God not only understands my needs but also has a plan that involves and uses setbacks to fulfill his good and glorious purposes (Rom 8:28). As an adopted son, the Father does not punish me because his Son has already bore the punishment for my sins (Isaiah 53:4-6; 1 Peter 2:24). Sons are disciplined out of love but never punished (Hebrews 12:7-11). And the Father does love me today not because of the consistency or potency of my ability to impress him but simply because he is loving and faithful (1 John 4:16-17). And therefore I can cease striving (Psalm 46:10) and find rest in Him (Matthew 11:28-30). I had to literally say and pray these things to myself this week to help fight the feelings of hurt, self-pity and frustration. It took a while for the feelings of my heart to catch up with the beliefs in my head but eventually the truth did set me free!

Another way that my orphan heart revealed itself was in the way that I related to the Father and to other people. This week, I was less inclined to spend time with God. I wanted to distance myself from Him. My orphan heart lacked trust in the Father and chose to foolishly flee intimacy with him just like the Prodigal. My relationships with those close to me were also more distant. I was increasingly self-absorbed, irritable and isolated. My poor wife and children!

Dwelling on the truth of the Word helps to combat the lies of an orphan heart but honest prayers “from the gut” help to reignite intimacy with the Father and others. This week, my prayers grew shorter and became more like the cries of a desperate child. “Father, help me” and “Father, have mercy on me” were my version of the “Abba cry” in Romans 8:15. As the Spirit of adoption assured me of the Father’s love, my agitated heart found rest in Him. The Spirit bore witness to my spirit that, indeed, I am a child of God (Rom. 8:16). In turn, my relationships with my loved ones became more Christ-like as well.

So, what began as a challenging week is turning out to be quite a blessed one and it’s all because of the Father’s love for me. I know this won’t be the last time I need to fend off an orphan heart to embrace my sonship in Christ. But, thanks be to God that his sanctifying love persists to free me to live more joyfully for him.

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Living a Lie

“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.”
1 John 4:16

I’ve been living a lie. It’s a subtle yet pervasive one and it effects everything I do. The lie is “the Father’s love is not enough.” It’s whispered in various forms. ”His love is not enough to satisfy.” “His love is not enough to save.” “His love is not enough to last.” As a believer in Christ Jesus, nothing could be further from the truth. God saved me by his grace through faith. In doing so, he adopted me as one of his own not because I am so lovable but simply because he is so darn loving. Despite knowing this truth, I often live as if it wasn’t true. I claim sonship but still live as if I was an orphan.

An orphan’s heart harbors the belief that, “the Father’s love is not enough.” Its effects can be seen in the story of the Prodigal son (Luke 15). Both sons were loved dearly by their father and possessed the privileges of sonship, yet both lived as if they were orphans. The orphan heart in the younger son believed the father’s love was not enough to satisfy so he took his inheritance and ran. The orphan heart in the older son believed that the father’s love was not great enough to be unconditional. This led him to do all the right things in an attempt to earn and sustain the father’s favor. I think the older son personifies the hearts of most believers. So many of us claim to be saved by God’s grace but continue to live as if His love was not big enough to adopt us or consistent enough to keep us in his household.

Recently, I received a report that Eden was going through a process of grieving as she anticipates her ensuing adoption. As she sobbed heavily, she expressed to her foster family that she felt like no one wanted her. Not her former orphanage, not her new orphanage, not her former foster family and not even her current one. As Eden’s parents, this was painful for us to hear but it was not unexpected. We knew orphans go through a grieving process. Part of it involves saying goodbye to their former life. But, part of it is also about the stress of learning to live as a daughter rather than as an orphan. Many adopted children attempt to be on their best behavior because they fear being sent back if they make a mistake. Most breakdown after they can no longer hold their perfect facade together. At this point, it is critical for adoptive parents to reassure their child that their love for her will never cease and that she is a part of their family forever.

When Eden comes into our home, there will be an ongoing process of reassuring her that we love her not because of her good behavior or because of the way that she looks or because of the talents she possesses but simply because she is our daughter. We love her because we love her. No matter how many times she hears this and experiences it, I know she will continually need to be told the truth about our unconditional love for her.

I know it could be very frustrating to repeatedly tell my daughter that I love her only to watch her live as if she doesn’t believe me. Yet, I anticipate I will be quite patient when it comes to telling her the same thing over and over again. Why? Because I know how she feels and I know how easy it is to live a lie. I may not have grown up as an orphan but that doesn’t mean I am devoid of an orphan heart. I’ve been adopted by my Heavenly Father yet I continue to slip back into living as if this was not true. I still strive to earn and keep his love by doing the right things for the wrong reasons just like the older son. And I continually need to be reminded by the Father that he loves me because he is loving not because I am lovable.

The only thing that can dispel the lies of an orphan heart is the unconditional love of the Father. Only in the safety of his embrace can we cease striving and find rest. I pray that Eden and I would grow in the knowledge and experience of the truth that the Father’s love is indeed enough for us.

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