Todd stood on a stage recently and shared how “God has always had more than one mission in mind…” His point: while we thought we were giving to and serving the vulnerable child, He’s meanwhile been busy renewing and restoring us.
I once believed loving the orphan was all about them, but it turns out in God’s economy, we can’t out-give Him. The more I have opened my hands and heart, the more He’s filled them both back up.
Here are a few of the gifts I have opened up over the last two decades…
1. The gift of meaning and mission. While I know any vocation and any geography can be used for the glory of God, for me, loving the orphan has brought a reason to both live and give. It’s driven me to want to “do” and “be” better, so another could benefit. Sharing this mission with my husband has given us the added benefit of a shared focus and a natural drawing together.
2. The gift of understanding how God could love an adopted-into-His-family-girl like me. There’s no other way to say it: I love my adopted babies in all the same ways I love my biological kiddos. It might not make sense, but it’s real and realizing the intense instinct I have towards children grafted-in, has allowed me to taste the love God has for grafted-in me.
3. The gift of community and some amazing relationships. I know all kinds of people I shouldn’t. I consider people from other countries family. I have lived in community among those who really know me and sharpen me. The goodness of all this comes from the co-missioning and kingdom-living “loving the orphan” has afforded me.
4. The gifts of sleepless nights, gray hair, and heartache. My heart breaks for all stories I know still in process. I wish I could say all these years later I am calloused, or even sure it will always work out, (whatever “it” is,) but I still hurt and worry just as much as I always have. I like to tell myself the hard is in direct correlation to how much I love!
5. The gift of recognizing my own limitations and brokenness. I used to think God wrote promises just for the orphan (to come to them, lift them up, execute true justice on their behalf, extend them mercy…) but I realize now I need those promises in every sense they do. I don’t have what it takes on any given day, and I need God to come through for me. Hallelujah there are promises for those days, those relationships, and in those assignments.
6. The gift of perspective and grasping His sovereignty. Were you paying attention? Do you see what’s happening? How can you be ok with this? I have asked all these questions to the Lord and the answer to them all is: He is in charge. He is good. We can trust Him. That gift alone has been worth the journey.
7. The gift of empathy (as I have had a close proximity of pain.) I have had to hurt worse than I wanted. As I loved a young girl, who grew up and fell into prostitution and then had a baby she couldn’t care for -- I realized this: I love, care for, and understand a prostitute, someone who I would have previously judged. Pain and desperation make us do crazy things -- sell drugs, leave our babies, hurt ourselves. I don’t like it. It’s not God’s best. But I understand why more than I ever have.
8. The gift of sacrifice and generosity. I self-preserve as much as anybody. I am selfish by nature and prefer my own convenience when left to myself. However, loving the orphan has caused me to sacrifice privacy and security and trade it in for joy and peace. I am not sure without this storyline in my life, if I would have understood the better-to-give-than-receive truth like I do now.
9. The gift of Motherhood. Evan. Marilin. Marlen. Tyler. (And these are just the ones with my last name.) Loving the orphan brought four of the best blessings in my life under my roof. Being their mother makes me more. More of who I was always created to be. I shudder imagining life without them, and without a doubt -- they are the very best part of this story for me.
So, on all the days I am tempted to dwell more on the cost than the benefit, I remember these good gifts He’s given me. I am blessed to know and feel the who and the what this story has invited into my life. That gratefulness changes everything.
In this community, we need to keep celebrating what we have and not complain about what is not yet. We can cheer on, encourage, and call out the difference saying yes to this call has made in our lives. Because even despite sleepless nights, gray hairs, and disappointment, I would say all over again -- yes to generosity and empathy and motherhood. Yes to perspectives and relationships and community.
Loving the orphan has been God’s gift to me, and I pray it’s been for you, too.