When my husband and I were attending training classes to become adoptive parents, one of the most poignant moments was a little exercise when our leader asked us to close our eyes and imagine visiting an orphanage with dozens of baby cribs. “What does it smell like? What do you hear?” she asked.
Hmmm… the stench of dirty diapers and the cacophony of babies crying, we presumed.
“No,” she corrected. In fact, it’s eerily silent. Orphanages, especially understaffed and underserved are often void of the normal cries of babies. And that’s not a good thing. What happens, we learned, is that out of necessity, babies are swiftly and minimally fed and diapered on a strict schedule. The babies have learned that their cries will not result in their needs being met, so in self-preservation, they stop. When they realize no one is coming for them, they just stop wasting energy crying. They become detached and silent while rocking their own bodies to self-soothe. Most lie on their back for the majority of their days, underfed, underweight, underdeveloped, disconnected and heartbreakingly voiceless. Caged in institutional cribs, they have lost their freedom to cry out. Merely surviving, without the consistent love and attention of care-givers, orphans are denied the ability to fully thrive.
It breaks the heart of God.
Lost potential. Abandoned souls.
We cage ourselves too, don’t we? Like orphans, we are stifled by our unmet needs. We’ve tried to self-soothe because we’ve long stopped crying out for help. We’ve over-valued our independence so much so that we miss out on the thriving found only in dependence and support. Our schedules are so strict and limited that we never get to be filled by a slow feast. We are always hungry for something more. The self- awareness of our own weakness is lost because we’ve blocked all negative emotions. We fall silent, disconnected from our loving, Heavenly-father because we are simply just in an Earthly survival mode.
To Him, our silence isn’t peaceful, it’s eerie.
He designed us with the glorious freedom to feel. It is His desire that we get intimate with the whole gamut of human emotion. He wants us to cry out because He knows how to answer, to remind us that we are not orphans. He is a loving Father with a deep passion to be connected to us so that we can develop; ever-closer to His image.
He sent us a perfect example in Jesus: A grown man who prayed with such anguish for His Father that he sweat blood (Luke 22:24); a guy that felt so angry that he overturned tables (Matthew 21:12), a hero who wept in deep grief at the tomb of a dear friend (John 11:36).
I point to the emotions of Jesus because I think sometimes, we Christians need to be reminded that we have the freedom to feel. Let’s us celebrate and rejoice in Him, yes! But may we also groan and lament for this world. ‘Happy, happy, joy, joy’ Christianity does not reflect the heart of God.
Writer G. Walter Hansen puts it this way: “I am spellbound by the intensity of Jesus’ emotions: not a twinge of pity, but heartbroken compassion; not a passing irritation, but terrifying anger; not a silent tear, but groans of anguish; not a weak smile, but ecstatic celebration. Jesus’ emotions are like a mountain river, cascading with clear water. My emotions are more like a muddy foam or feeble trickle. Jesus invites us to come to him and drink. Whoever is thirsty and believes in him will have the river of his life flowing out from the innermost being (John 7:37-38). We are not to be merely spellbound by what we see in the emotional Jesus; we are to be unbound by his Spirit so that his life becomes our life, his emotions our emotions, to be “transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory.”
In our adoption training, after our hearts were broken-open by picturing the dismal reality of many foreign orphanages, we learned the cure. An abandoned, silent, and underdeveloped child can be brought into the fullness of life with consistent and attached LOVE. Hope is not lost.
Yes, the JOY of the Lord is our strength, but the LOVE of the Lord awaits our weakness. If you feel weak, it’s ok… Keep leaning on Him! Hold onto your Hope. Your leaning is declaring: “Adopt me Father. I want life; not mere survival, but cascading and full thriving.”