Most definitions of orphan begin and end with the idea of having no parents. But one can have two parents and still bear deep orphan wounds. Emotional abandonment in the form of critical parents, neglectful parents, or just very immature ones can leave a child scrambling to supply his or her own needs. Life in an orphanage is one of deprivation and competition, but sometimes life in a family can echo the same familiar themes.
So many Christians today live in a state of insecurity, fighting for what is theirs, and working hard to earn approval from God and from others. As most adoptive parents can tell you, just because a child now lives in a secure family does not mean that their hearts have adapted to a life where others meet their needs. And we, as Christians, are all adopted into the family of God. Our problem is that we don’t know how to be a part of God’s family. We don’t know how to have a daddy.
The need to control others reveals orphan wounding. After all, if we need to go to great lengths to make our surroundings safe, then we are well acquainted with what it means to be unsafe. Other hallmarks of orphan behavior are jealousy of others, fear and resentment of authority, performance orientation, and spiritual ambition or the desire to be seen as spiritually mature. The underlying motivation is to prove oneself worthy of love.
So our task as new creations is to leave this flawed way of thinking and living behind and move in the patterns of grace and love. We are sons and daughters of a loving Father. So how do we experience this in such a way that transforms us from fearful, needy, and self-absorbed children into adults that radiate sonship?
My purpose in writing this is to go beyond the usual prescriptions to a more practical application of theology. I see many wonderful people log in hours of prayer and Bible study as well as decades of church attendance without ever losing the secret belief that they do not deserve love. But each of those, if done in an attempt to be a good Christian, will educate you about God without filling you with God. So here are a few things that have worked for me.
- Admit your need.
Ironically, an orphan cannot admit needing because that shows weakness or vulnerability. Yet the only way to wholeness is to confess your lack. If you do not feel God’s love, and yes, I mean feel, then confess that lack to Him and to others. I personally do not believe that God wants us to merely intellectually assent to the idea that He is love. If you do not feel His presence or His love, something is wrong! This is not a matter of right or wrong but of life and death.
You are meant to dwell in the courts of the Almighty, seated with Him in the heavenlies. He gave His life for you so that you might have life, and have it abundantly. If this is not your experience, then you must face the ugly fact of your lack. This has nothing to do with fault. This doesn’t even have anything to do with salvation. It is God’s will that you be filled with His peace and His deep affection. If you aren’t, it is time to start searching.
- Work on your ability to receive.
For me, an orphan heart meant that I needed to deserve everything I got. Moreover, I could not stand receiving without reciprocation. If you gave me a gift, I would give you one right back. I didn’t like to owe. But the heart of Christianity is that our debts are paid in full and all we do is receive it. If you are unable to receive, then chances are you cannot feel loved. Feeling loved is actually part and parcel of your destiny. God made us because He wanted to express His incredible love to us. Time to get a piece of that.
Practically speaking, this takes some real intentionality on your part. You need to create neural pathways that are capable of receiving affection. My husband and I still practice on each other. We say loving things to one another and then take the time to learn how to accept the love from each other. Have a hard time accepting compliments? Tear down those barriers. Admit to the pain that erected those obstacles and invite God in to heal those hurts.
- Open yourself up to new ideas.
Our patterns of orphan thinking get really entrenched. I have served as a prayer minister for about fifteen years. In that time I have seen countless people healed of traumas and past hurts. But no matter what stories I tell, so many people refuse to open themselves up to inner healing. They are afraid it won’t work for them, or they do not want their small theologies challenged.
One of my favorite stories is of a young man who wore images of death, skulls and other such symbols on all of his clothing. He himself felt bitter at God for various losses in his life, the divorce of his parents and the loss of his brother. His father was emotionally abusive.
As we sat in an inner healing session, he saw his heart as a piece of trash on the side of the road, worthless and dirty. But as each lie surfaced, he submitted it to God and waited for an answer. The abuse from his father? Not his fault. The loss of his brother? His brother was with God. Feeling unwanted? God picked up his broken and bruised heart and wrapped His own warm, loving, living heart around it and made that young man’s heart new and alive. He felt loved for the first time in his life. How exciting is that!!!!
If the life abundant that God promised you is not the one you are experiencing, it is time to change things up. If you read a lot of books about who God is and yet do not feel the warmth of his presence, you may need to admit that you have a need. Intellectual knowledge is great. Experiential knowledge is just as important. If you told your children what love was and yet did not care for their needs, listen to them, or wrap loving arms around them, would they not misunderstand what love is?
Don’t be afraid to throw down the gauntlet before your Abba. He will pick it up. God is not a concept, nor is He an abstract idea. He is alive and active. He is knocking at your door right now. You may need someone to show you how to open it.
If you want a new vision of your heavenly Daddy, read Jack Frost. Now. If you need to experience God, Experiencing God will show you how. If you want a quick education on inner healing, read any thing by John Sandford. Literally anything.
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