Saturday, October 8, 2011
For the Orphan
When I was a freshman in college I loved to go for runs down Reynolda Drive and Stratford Road. Both roads are lined with beautiful homes that are immaculately manicured. Deciduous trees create an orange canopy over the road in autumn. I think every time I ran down those roads, I would imagine myself living in one of the houses. It seems silly to me now, but in my mind back then, I'd think about what would need to happen for me to live in one of those houses- or at least one something like that. Winston-Salem, I had decided, was a perfect place to live. Close to the mountains, close to home. My parents would always want to come and visit me and we could all go to Wake Forest games, something we had been doing my entire life. If I became a veterinarian, which was the plan at the time, I'd make good money. Of course, I'd probably need to marry a doctor or a lawyer or a dentist or something to be able to afford a house on Stratford Road. But life was in front of me, anything could happen.
When I woke up this morning in Austin, I thought about Reynolda Road. I'll bet you that today, some freshman girl will wake up and go for a run down that road and spin those orange leaves and perfect houses into her web of dreams the same way I did. But me? I woke up in Texas, in the middle of the worst drought on record. My husband left early to go to National Guard drill. My parents, two day's drive away, can't drive down for any games. And my only company for the day will be a stack of Biology papers and my two Cocker spaniels.
I know there are all sorts of people out there who love Texas, and I am not out to dog your state. I know you love it because it's yours. And I've seen some pretty stuff here and had some good times. And I have to say that Texans are super friendly and sweet for the most part. But, for a North Carolina girl, it is rough when it's October and still breaking 100 and the only colors you ever see are gray-green from those half-dead oaks and the yellow straw on the ground that used to be grass. It's hard. It's not just like a subtle, "Oh, I am homesick. Wouldn't it be nice to take a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway today? Oh well, let's go eat brisket," kind of thing. It's an ache, an almost tangible sadness that comes from being here when autumn has come back at home, and people are going to football games in sweaters. I'm missing the Cameron Antiques show, I'll miss the Holly Day Fair again and my brother's 30th birthday. And I can't even begin to really make myself think about all that I have already missed and will continue to miss with Lacy and John Palmer. Lacy, I'm sorry. I'm just so sorry.
So it's understandable, I guess, to wake up on a morning like this one and wonder, "How much longer do I have to be here?" Recently, I've tried to be honest about this stuff with Jesus. I know He doesn't like my complaining. I know that really, even though it was through Andy, it was Jesus who brought me down here. And I haven't liked that because pretty much ever since getting here, for one reason or another, I've been mostly sad. You don't expect that after you get married. You think you're going to get Stratford Road, but I got a lot of accusations thrown at me, followed by rejection, and a season of loneliness. For a long time, I didn't want to talk to Jesus about this. I was really mad at Him, and hurt that He would allow something like this to happen in my life. Hadn't I given up Stratford Road for Him? Hadn't I dropped the dreams about money and beautiful houses and being a doctor? Hadn't I waited for the husband He gave to me instead of going out on a mission to find one? So why? Why did He put me in a situation where I would be alone and so misunderstood? And in the midst of all of that, why did it have to be so daggone hot. Really? I move here and it just happens to be the hottest and driest summer ever?
But not talking to Jesus is the worst thing you could do. Even if conversations with Him start off as complaint, He's pretty faithful to change my heart right away. I'm learning that I have to trust Him, and that means talking to Him, even when I wake up and my heart hurts so much I don't want to move. That's how I felt this morning. But I did move. I got out of bed and got my BSF notes. And after laying back down and telling Jesus a few sentences about how much it still hurts to be rejected and accused, and how lonely and dry it still is, and how much I miss my family, it was time for me to be quiet and listen. So I put on my glasses and read the first paragraph of my notes,
Disruption and displacement in life are almost always painful. However they can lead to expansion into new work and new effectiveness...In the hands of God, removal from one place or endeavor can bring renewal for knowing Him better. There may be new, significant work for His cause in the world.
Last night, Andy and I worked together with three other ladies from Austin Stone's Orphan Care Network making prayer cards. On each card is the face, name, age and a nugget of information about the kids in Travis County who have been in the foster care system for a long time. There are 51 cards. The cards are going to be laminated and made into bookmarks and magnets, and we're going to give them away at next Saturday's Orphan Care Network launch picnic. 51 cards, and we are praying that every single one of them gets picked up and that God will remind the people who take them home to pray for those kids. And then every kid whose info was available in the system will be prayed for by one of the saints. And God listens to the prayers of His people. We're going to ask Him to give them homes, because they don't have one. And families, because they don't have those either. And mostly, we're going to ask Him to give them love- His love- for the rest of their lives. And you know what? I don't like how hot it is here, and I don't like missing out on so much back home, but someone needs to start asking those things on behalf of these kids. Because on Stratford Road, moms pray for their own children. But in Travis County, who will pray for the children on my 51 cards?
Wake Forest and North Carolina, my mom, my best friend and so much of what is precious to me is a long way away. It will be another hot day here in Texas, and I don't know that I'll like it much, but my notes are right. Though it's painful, expansion of God's work comes through that pain. Only in Texas, and only under these circumstances, has God given me the reason and the resources to begin the process of opening up my heart and my life for the orphan.
The reason? Because these past two years have been an experience in the tremendous need for families to be led by a good father. When fathers fail, families flounder. When fathers misdirect, families go astray. When fathers worship something, even if it is a good thing, other than the One True God, children will not know how to worship in truth. When fathers do not listen, relationships cannot be authentic. And when fathers abandon or reject their children, the loss is almost indescribable. These conditions describe the lives of the fatherless. And this is what I've seen, in different degrees of magnitude, in the past few years, and it's broken my heart. It's made me angry and distressed, to the point of panic and dismay. But then, truth comes.
Truth came late last spring when I first got involved with Orphan Care Network. And through that group, I was reminded that God is not the kind of Father who demonstrates the things listed above. He does not mislead or fail or abandon or reject His children. He always listens, He always loves, He is always kind and His ways are always faithful. He does not have favorites. He does not ignore. He does not forget. When thinking about the pain that fatherlessness had caused in my own life and in the lives of people I love, I determined that a way to be part of the solution was to be a part of Fathering the fatherless. So God has provided resources through the Orphan Care Network to work out this desire, so that Andy & I are becoming conduits of parental, heavenly love to children, teenagers, even adults, affected by the aches and evils of fatherlessness.
This is the new work He has given to me. And to tell the truth, it's the work that I needed to do. Facing fatherlessness is never easy. It's always painful because our hearts were intended to experience the perfect love of our Heavenly Father and even the best dads here on Earth are always going to fall short of that love. And so we ache. But the ache can draw us closer to the Father we were always intended to call "Abba." To tell that message reminds me that the disappointment that comes from not being fathered well, or from witnessing someone I love suffer from such a situation, can be enveloped by the joy of having a good, truthful, loving, faithful Father.
It is costly. It is painful. But to be a true representative of the Father that I so desperately need to love me, and lead me, then I need to be obedient to His command to care for the orphan. It's not enough just to point to those passages in Scripture and expect the world to somehow leap for joy that God is God. Why should they rejoice about a God on a page, when their own lives are experiencing the pain of fatherlessness. But God in action- that's who they need to see, and it's our privilege to be Him to them- to be good fathers, good mothers, good foster parents, faithful petitioners- so that they can see that He is serious about being a Father, serious enough to take people out of the familiar and the beautiful- so that the new and effective can be accomplished.