Monday, November 4, 2013

Living Like An Orphan

"Can I help you," I ask my son.

He hears me but doesn't even look up.  "No.  I've got it." 

I raise an eyebrow and shrug but back away without further comment.  He doesn't have it, of that I'm sure. 

The floor surrounding him is covered with a confetti bomb of magazine clippings and torn out pages yet to be attacked by the snub-nosed black and white zebra scissors.  Emerson works diligently to cut out another tiny picture for his collage, but his brute force approach is no match for the delicate twists and turns needed to cut out the golden tamarin monkey's thin, winding tail.

Sure enough, I'm standing elbow-deep in dishes at the sink when he finally gives up and asks for my help.

The problem is he's not the only one in my household dead-set against accepting assistance.  My other two children and almost forty-year-old husband all suffer from the same I-don't-need-help malady, an illness usually stemming from a belief that the project "isn't that hard" or that they'll "be a burden or inconvenience" to someone else.

Some days, it's maddening to live with these people.  It's when I'm ready to choke the stubborn lot of them that I realize I am guilty of much the same thing.  Five years of raising twins has taught me well that I need to rely on others, to ask for help.  I strongly believe God gave me twins to bring me to the end of my own self-reliance so that I could finally learn to be quick in asking others for help, even when it's something I could do myself but would be easier and quicker with more helping hands working alongside me.

The problem is I can't always say the same is true when it comes to my interactions with the heavenly Father.

All too often, I find myself living like an orphan with no Father, as one who "lacks support, supervision, or care" when nothing could be further from the truth 

I work hard, trying to provide for my own needs, all the while forgetting to petition Him to "Give us this day our daily bread" (Matt. 6:11).

I struggle against various temptations in my own strength, pulling myself up by the bootstraps and forging ahead despite my constant failures, forgetting to simply ask "And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil" (Matt. 6:13).

The story of the Prodigal Son is a tale of a self-declared orphan living in his own self-imposed, wretched state.

Yes, the young man had acted sinfully.  Yes, he had squandered all his material wealth.  Yet, for a time, he chose to live as an orphan: "So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him" (Lk. 15:15-16).

Perhaps he chose to live as an orphan because he was too ashamed to face his father.  Or perhaps he feared his father's rejection were he to return.  Whatever the reason, the Prodigal Son submitted to this life as an orphan, a sub-human life full of physical hunger, social rejection, and a corresponding emotional hunger to return home to the father.

Scripture records, "But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.'' So he got up and came to his father" (v. 17-20).

Whether or not his father chose to accept him back as his son would be his father's choice, but this young man made a decision to leave the life of an orphan and return home.  The words "he came to his senses" could not be any clearer concerning how totally idiotic it is to wallow in the mire of our unrepentant state, to struggle alone in the daily difficulties of this life, and to live as if there is no father to turn to.

The text could also not be clearer concerning the father's response to any child who returns home: "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him" (v. 20).

This parable well demonstrates how God the Father is just waiting with open arms for His children to return home to Him, to realize there is no sin too great for God to forgive, no distance too great that He cannot bridge the gap to reconcile Himself to His child.  In short, any self-labelled orphan need only repent and turn to the Father to be adopted into His kingdom as sons and daughters (Rom 8:17).

But I think this parable doesn't just speak to those far away from the grace of Christ.  Instead, I believe it shows an image of what happens each and every time those of us who are already in Christ attempt to live as if we, too, are orphans.

Each time there is a difficulty, an illness, a concern.  Each time there is a problem, an uncertainty about what to do, a hardship.  Each time I attempt to tackle anything in my own power, I am as guilty of denying that I have a Father as the Prodigal Son lying in the slop with the swine.

Each day you and I live like we don't have a heavenly Father watching over us, waiting for us to turn to Him, extending His hand to help since He is just a prayer away--each moment we live like an orphan, we are doomed to utter failure, frustration, and heartache because to live like an orphan is to try and be someone we were never created to be.

God did not create us to stand on our own two feet.  He never meant for you and me to live as orphans in no (or even "little") need of a Father's moment-by-moment guidance.   He did not save our souls, give us a push toward the right path and say, "Good luck!"

We are sons.  We are daughters.  Moment by moment, may we reject this notion that we are independent, self-sufficient orphans and choose, instead, to be the child wholly and irrevocably dependent on the Father... just as we were created to be.

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