A friend of mine once commented on the fact that she and most of her friends had never really been parented or mentored as children. Her words struck me speechless. After all, the people to whom she was referring (including herself) still had two living parents who were part of their lives, at least to some degree. She continued by explaining that most of her generation were children of parents who had been pre-occupied with discovering who they themselves were; as a result, they had had little time or energy for training and mentoring their children.
As a child born in the fifties, I was raised with traditionally minded but forward-thinking parents who strongly encouraged me to pursue an education and a career (which certainly could include being a wife and mother). They also modeled a well-developed work ethic and strong moral fiber. They loved me unconditionally and gave me more than just a glimpse of the Father heart of God. I assumed my family was typical of most families — yet I soon found out that mine was the exception!
Certainly, my parents were not perfect, nor was their generation patently virtuous. However, during my childhood, there were certain general standards for ethics, integrity, and morality that were well established in our communities. As a result, when some of us had an itch to rebel, everyone knew it WAS rebellion. That, in fact, was the whole point: rebelling against what some young people perceived to be the restrictive, traditional standards of their parents’ generation. If there had been no standards to rebel against, I am not certain that said “rebels” would have found insurrection so attractive.
A few decades later, our society is increasingly amoral. Amorality and widespread tolerance of all manner of behaviors, with no boundaries at all, can tend to produce a generation of insecure, unstable, powerless young people who have no idea who they are. Many of them have no vision, dreams, or goals, and no confidence in their potential. Perhaps their parents never DID find themselves and were paralyzed in terms of giving their children affirmation and guidance. Perhaps their parents abandoned them or were patently incapable of caring for them (due to financial constraints, emotional or work-related stress, addictions, etc.) — or perhaps the children left home and subsequently found themselves stuck in a rut and unable to return.
Whatever the specific cause in a given individual’s case, I find we are surrounded by a host of motherless, fatherless children; often these “children” are adults who have no hope, no direction, and no understanding of their inherent value to God or anyone else. Often they have abandoned any dreams they had as children and have no positive experience with healthy community or family relationships. Certainly, even those of us with living parents can feel like abandoned orphans, at least part of the time.
What does this observation mean for the Body of Christ? The Scripture clearly mandates inclusion of the outcast, the lonely, the widow, and the orphan (see Deuteronomy 24:17, 19-21). God wants us to incorporate them in our families and care for them as if they were our own. He “sets the lonely in families; He leads out the prisoners with singing;…” (Psalm 68:6a, NIV). Psalm 68:5a declares that He is a “father to the fatherless.”
In the sea of ministry outreach opportunities, sometimes the best thing we can do is the simplest thing: be a loving “parent” or “sibling” to one another. God demonstrated that ministry model when He declared Himself to be our Father; He also said that He, the Lord, our Maker, is our Husband; Jesus is our elder Brother. The Lord Himself is a better father to us than the best earthly father could ever be, and He loves each one of us as a well-beloved, precious child made in His image. THAT news should serve as the foundation of how we treat one another, both inside and outside the walls of the our church gatherings: sometimes people just need a mommy to love them and listen to them, to give compassion and hope; other times, they need a daddy to understand, forgive, and walk alongside them through challenges. Simple old-fashioned kindness works wonders, particularly when repeated in a relational context over the long haul.
Father, give us YOUR heart for the orphans — the fatherless and motherless children and adults who surround us. Empower us to bring healing to those who have been disappointed or damaged by authority figures in their lives. Work miracles of restoration in simple acts of care and kindness as we include one another in this process of discovering true life in You — in Jesus’ Name!