Oftentimes, when we hear the word "orphan," we imagine young Oliver in the musical of the same name, holding his bowl up and asking for "more, please?" Or the red-haired Annie, running up and down Daddy Warbuck's hundreds of steps with her dog, Sandy. But, exactly who is this "orphan" who God calls us to visit in affliction in James 1:27? Who is this He has promised to protect and defend as the "powerful Advocate who will go to bat for them," Proverbs 23:10-11 (MSG)?
As a counselor for four years at a pregnancy and adoption agency, I have come to understand that this term "orphan" refers to more than just a child in an institution who has lost his or her parents. By all means, these sweet children exist across the world and God acts mightily in defense of them. But, when you walk through each step with each person who plays a part in this journey of placing a child, at any age, in an adoptive home, you realize that there are more “orphans,” or lonely He is caring for and calling us to love.
My agency takes the responsibility of placing children in families seriously. Each of us know that we will stand before God for the decisions we have made along the way. His protection is that fierce for His most vulnerable. We have learned that to be the best stewards of these young lives, it is in their best interest to teach our adoptive parents the importance of honoring and possibly maintaining some level of connection to their birth family and beginning. The idea of openness, or staying in relationship with the biological parent(s), is often met with intense anxiety. Doesn't this kind of openness create confusion for my child? Will he know who his parents are?
The reality is that when an open relationship is possible, we get to see a miraculous phenomenon walked out in the flesh of a new and bigger understanding of "family." One adoptive mom describes it as an overwhelming love she felt born in her heart for the birth mother of her child. This family has not just adopted three children, but they have chosen to love three very different birth mothers. These mothers chose to selflessly place their children for adoption due to a variety of reasons, all stemming from a hope that their children could be given a life different than the one they had to offer at the time of placement. The adoptive parents heard the call of Jesus to not just look at adoption as a chance to "save a child" from difficult circumstances, but that it was a calling to all who are a part of that child's beginning. They have invited the birth families to their home for Christmas and Easter, birthday parties and graduations. They have poured out support and care for them and the other children they are parenting at home. Could it not be said that these birth parents are also the "orphans," the "lonely." And we are called to live out loud to defend, protect and provide for them.
My state, as are most states in our country, is in a crisis at this point in time. We have too many orphans...too many lonely. He has not forgotten them. There are so many ways to heed the call to care, protect and provide for these who need a family. Maybe you are being called to be a foster or adoptive family, or a temporary place of respite for a parent trying to make ends meet? Maybe you are being called to join the ranks of those who work every single day to make the necessary connections between those who are in need and those who want to provide?
Whatever the capacity, you can be confident that He has called you to some place on this spectrum. He has made it abundantly clear that these vulnerable "orphans" and "lonely" are a charge to each of us who seek to serve Him. We know He can stop the cycle of trauma and devastation and heal the wounds caused by generations of loneliness. He has promised to return and make all things new - until then, let us be the hands and feet to reach out, grab hold, and walk the journey to never give up.
New Heavens, New Earth
(written as a gift to SALLT)
Music and Lyrics by:
©2015 Kyle Dillingham, LLC