or·phan (ôr′fən)n. 1. a. A child whose parents are dead. b. A child who has been deprived of parental care and has not been adopted.
I won't bore you with all the details, but I feel like I raised myself without much parental oversight. The very "1.b." definition from above. Divorce, multiple marriages, workaholism, strangers in the house, making all my own moral decisions, drugs, alcohol, vandalism, etc. Don't get me wrong, I was blessed with a strange sort of deep knowing that I was loved, but my parents were not really around or capable of offering anything in way of tangible evidence to the fact. If you knew their stories like I do, you would completely understand and even empathize, as I do.
College brought Jesus...the slate wiped clean of the life I had come from and all the bad stuff I had done. I could begin again with a new life and way to live. The folks in my dorm and at the church I started attending even used words like "adoption" and phrases like "your true Father". I finally felt like I belonged somewhere, had a family, and an identity for which I wasn't ashamed.
I remember my kids asking me (from a book called "Questions for my Father") about my most significant day of college. I was surprised at how emotional I was when I answered that moving into my first apartment with the four men I would live with for the next four years, was my most significant day. For the first time in my life I had found a home. I belonged, was loved, and had a voice that mattered. A culture of friendship, family, and faith was fiercely fought for once defined.
That all worked pretty well until I started real life...work, marriage, and fathering. What I couldn't have known is that the "orphan spirit" I had lived under for the majority of my life had taken such formative ground. Deep beyond deep, more defining than my experiences in college, I was an orphan. I knew I was alone, not really loved, and needed to get really busy doing the Christian thing if I was every going to earn and keep the approval of my Father. Our enemy and his legalism, prey on the orphan spirit in believers.
When I read verses like these...
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—"
...I thought that it was true for me in an eternal sense, but couldn't claim "sonship" in the present. But just like I had been forgiven for the past, present, and future, I was adopted in the same way. I was created to walk in sonship, son of the most high God. I was predestined to know the fullness of his acceptance, approval and love.
Walking in the reality of my sonship has changed everything. I am no longer an orphan looking to be adopted. My life of striving, doing, frustration, and never feeling like I am quite right or that anything I do is enough, is over. Mostly. I don't think I will completely be rid of that old identity this side of eternity, but I am inching ever closer to sonship. I am much more aware.
That orphan spirit is the source of my feeling distanced from God, believing I am alone, and the disappointment I feel for myself and others. Whenever I start to feel any of those things, it is usually rooted there. I don't always see it in the moment, but it is quickly sourced, rebuked, and fought through. My most recent battle of any significance had to do with my band of brothers. It took some hard conversations, but lost ground was retaken, a beachhead re-solidified.
My head has been spinning since yesterday. I read a blog post by a gifted acquaintance, Morgan Snyder. He wrote a first person account of the the Prodigal Son story that brought new clarity and had me revisiting my journey from orphan to son. He reference the song "Good Good Father" by Housefires.
oh and I've seen many searching for answers far and wide But I know we're all searching for answers only you can provide 'cause you know just what we need before we say a word
You're a good good father It's who you are, It's who you are Its who you are And I'm loved by you It's who I am, It's who I am It's who I am
A good Father is who He is.
An adopted son is who I am.
I was created for adoption into sonship.
Believing that has changed everything.