It's Father's Day. I am reminded that I had two of those and still retained the designation of orphan. The question comes to mind: was I rich or poor in daddies?
A wailing child can take me back on the instant to the first day in an orphanage, as I was left there by my mother, wailing my heart out, red-faced and hiccupping, and inconsolable. Even now, when I see a child in such extremis, everwhelmed by grief, and heartroken, I have to look away. Orphanage was right up front in my mind.
I sat on someone's lap there and explained in gulps and sniffles that I didn't have a Daddy so Mommy left me here. That gentle someone said I had a Daddy I didn't know about. As she comforted me, strokng my hair and wiping my messy little face, she talked to me in soft tones about the Father I had. She said the only hard part was that I couldn't see Him, but that He was very near to me all the time. She had a book, she said, that could tell me all about Him, and how much He loved me could be found on nearly every page. She promised to read the stories there if I would listen.
She told me that I could remember some of its parts so that I could tell them to myself whenever I was unhappy and worried or scared. And then she told me how I could talk to Him. She spoke about His character and His attributes. At some point my tears lessened, my body stopped shaking and I nestled against her, less rigid, less frightened.
I was three.
I pleaded for my mother and this kind woman explained that my mommy had something very important to do and I couldn't be with her while she did it. This was the safe place for me, and she went on to tell me that it was my heavenly Father who thought this was so. In fact, she said, this might just be His idea, a thought that restarted tears. But she held up her hand and said, "No, no. Listen to me". And she began to tell me what she suspected about my loving Father, that all things are under His hand and that a safe place was the most important thing for me right now, so He'd know exactly where I was, all the time, while Mommy had to be about her own business.
She was planting strong seeds that would later bear the fruit of my faith, knowing that later I would need this bedrock instruction to build upon. As I sat in church today listening to my pastor talk of community and building relationships within the church community, I was suddenly back in orphanage again, recognizing that I was firmly rooted in the idea, bound to the understanding of sharing a life and a place with others. This pastor gets it, knows the need, recognizes we cannot play in God's arena if we won't belong to each other.
No matter our beginnings, our trials, our foibles, our joys and our sorrows, beneath all that we bear the same burdens. The only difference is degree. Who better to help me carry the baggage I find so hard to put down, than someone who knows that baggage well. Who better to help me put it down? But it means we must necessarily show each other our burdens. And stop pretending we don't have them.
We are made for each other. That is the naked truth. As we more and more isolate ourselves, as we more and more work in our little cubicles, our lofts, our separate places, we lose our connections, and trust me, while the internet calls us quickly, it does not, ....not....bring us closer to each other. So that when the rain falls down, the volcano erupts, the world ignites, we are still separate and alone.
We build those walls with busyness, with work, with mind numbing withdrawal, and find ourselves by ourselves. We long to belong. To keep company with someone. To share thoughts and ideas and laughter, and yes, tears.
Sometimes I hear people say of each other, "Oh, they're dumping. Oh, they're venting". Is that a way to say "shut up already"? When we signal that we are unwilling to listen to the pain or lonliness of another, we miss the whole point of what God intended. See, He didn't make just you. Or just me. He made us both. Made us all. Why do you think that is?
I've been a member of my church for nearly 35years and still feel like an outsider. People are friendly, and even warm, welcoming and smiling. But after the service is over, the door closes. They do not intend to know me. We all go about our business. This club is closed. Some people walk away in pain, wondering why they are not let in. Tough to build community, let alone mission, with that posture.
Some people have a knack to belong. They just assume it. And with that posture, some of them are permitted. But most of us need to be invited. Some signal that we're welcome. Some belief that we belong here and have value. We want to matter to this place.
So what's that got to do with orphanage? The feelings, you might be surprised, are the same. Where my church is concerned, I think I'm still at the orphanage. And I want so badly to go home.