The Orphan Spirit: Insecurity

My son has nightmares just about every night. On a normal night, I get out of my bed, walk across the hallway and into his bedroom 1-3 times. On Monday night because the power was out and he’s also afraid of the dark, I went into his room nearly a dozen times. Ever since the adoption, my nights of good rest have been few and far between.

In our dreams, our subconscious works out the emotions, thoughts and fears that we aren’t aware of in our waking hours. With that in mind, it concerns me that every time I ask Moses what his bad dream was about, he tells me the same thing over and over. “I had a dream where I was running and crocodiles were chasing me and one bit my arm off.” Translation: “I don’t feel safe. I’m insecure. I’ve been trying to avoid serious danger my entire life.”

I know that this is residue in his spirit from spending the majority of his life as an orphan.

Photo by Georgie Pauwels
Source

When a child grows up fatherless, the most immediate and constant issue is the lack of a felt-safety. The most natural instinct between a father and his child is the innate understanding that he will protect them at all costs. I see this with my own children, when they feel scared or unsure about a situation, they cling to me. It’s natural. I, for most intents and purposes, am a pacifist. I’ve never been in a fight and I am morally opposed to it it. But when I feel that someone is a threat to my family, all my philosophies go out the window and I’m ready to throw down. It’s also natural and in many ways is one of the key traits and responsibilities of a father. I protect my children.

But what about an orphan?

They become afraid and turn to a parent that isn’t there. It pains me to think of my son sleeping in a bedroom at the orphanage, having a bad dream and calling out to thin air, because I wasn’t there and Melissa wasn’t there to go in and comfort him, secure him and help him go back to sleep.

Children, by God’s design, are smaller and more vulnerable. In an ideal family situation, this is a good thing. It’s a good thing that my one year old son, Shepherd, isn’t as big as me. If he were, I wouldn’t be able to carry him away from dangerous situations or pick him up after he hurt himself learning to walk. It’s also a good thing that my daughter, Promise, is vulnerable to me and my wife. It’s with that soft heart that we’re able to mold her, guide her and disciple her into the wonderful, loving and kind woman that she’ll be.

However, given these truths about children, when they are detached from family and don’t have a parent looking out for them, fear and insecurity are the natural inclination. It’s a survival mechanism. Orphans are always in survival mode. What a stressful state to live in. I wish that I could say it were just a feeling too, the feeling of insecurity. I wish that I could say that they aren’t actually susceptible to such dangers, but they are.

Orphans are most likely to be abused sexually, physically, verbally and socially because there’s no one to protect them. Are we okay with this?  >tweet this<

I know that there’s no shortage of reasons that people give to not adopt, to not foster, to not become a protector of orphans. “We haven’t been called to that.” “We don’t have enough money.” “My heart wouldn’t be in it.” “I’m not ready, I’ll do it when I (fill in the blank) first.” Meanwhile, orphans remain at-risk of serious danger on every front. Meanwhile, orphans are dying. Dying physically, dying emotionally, dying spiritually. This is real life, people.

At what point do we allow their drastic needs to outweigh our own? When do we decide that we are the ones that can make them secure?

 

Keep building.

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An Orphan Care Perspective on Psalm 127

Over the last few months, Psalm 127 has been on my mind and is deepening my theology on orphan care. At the end of July, I was blessed to teach out of this passage at our Kingdom Families Conference and frame the orphan care conversation in a new lens.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman stays awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early,
To sit up late,
To eat the bread of sorrows;
For so He gives His beloved sleep.
Behold, children are an inheritance from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;
They shall not be ashamed,
But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.

You have the power to build something. Everyday I see people striving to build some sort of legacy. It’s really a part of our nature as beings created in the likeness of God. He is the Creator so we inherently want to create as well. This desire to build has led to the entirety of human progress.  What the psalmist is saying here is that it is actually possible to build something apart from God’s design. We are able to build things and not have God involved in it whatsoever. He states such labor is vain. It’s useless.

As I was studying this text I couldn’t help but think about all the houses that have been built for orphans throughout the world. Houses that don’t have God’s design and don’t have the child’s best interest in mind. Even those with good intentions that build an orphanage or run a group home fall short. That’s not even to getting into the houses that exploit these vulnerable children for sinister purposes like sex slavery and child armies.

Throughout every society, orphans are the most susceptible and disadvantaged populace. As Christians, we must determine what kind of house it is that God’s building for them. Is an orphanage, even a Christian orphanage, the end-all design that God’s given? Is it foster homes or group homes where children often last short periods of time only to be passed on to the next house and then the next after that? Or is the house that God’s building something else?

I’m reminded of a quote by Johnny Carr speaking specifically about orphanages: “Man made orphanages for children, but God made the family for children.” (Orphan Justice, pg. 65)

I’m overwhelmed with this understanding that we can pour ourselves into orphan care ministries and make sure that kids get fed and get a bed and we can smile at them and say “Jesus loves you” and yet, they remain an orphan. They remain disconnected because they received our best material resources, but never had the couple that went to bat for them and said “you are our child.”

When I see children that have been adopted, I see how they transform and meld into the family and I see the family evolve as God adds to their number. The child not only knows that they’re loved, but they are finally free to be the fullest expression of who they are in Christ. I can’t help but realize that this is the house that God is building. God is building families.

Adoptive Family that has two children through adoption, one from Kazakhstan one from Azerbaijan Source
Adoptive Family that has two children through adoption, one from Kazakhstan one from Azerbaijan Source

As God allows us to build our families through both procreation and adoption, we are saying yes to receiving our inheritance. Inheritance is normally associated with what children receive when their parents pass away, but that isn’t the meaning of this verse.

My children don’t receive my inheritance, they are my inheritance. >tweet this<

The legacy that we leave behind is our children. For the twenty years they’re in our home and all the years after that, we are investing in our own inheritance. We get to delight in our inheritance when we see our children succeed in their vocation, raise our grandkids or even when they mess up and we are privileged to be the ones to pick them up.

In Tanzania, adoption is not common. One of the reasons for this is because people understand that if they adopt, especially a boy, then they will have to split up their inheritance. This often involves family-owned land. For this reason, many people are hesitant to make an orphan their son. They view this is as reducing their inheritance, but this scripture says just the opposite. When we adopt, our inheritance actually increases and we have another arrow with which to advance God’s Kingdom.

What are you building? Are you satisfied with a house that is less than or totally other than what God is building?

I’ve come to this realization that at almost thirty years old, my life is going by and my kids aren’t getting any smaller. Next thing I know, another thirty years will go by and I’ll be sixty and still another and I’ll likely be dead. If this is the one life that I get and it’s over like a vapor in the wind, I don’t want to waste it building something apart from God’s design. Lord, let not my life be in vain. God has a special inheritance and a house in mind for me and for you, will you receive it?

Keep building.

When It’s Your Child

A few months ago, Melissa and I were watching a documentary on Netflix called “Stuck.” The documentary was all about the various journeys of international adoption that people go through. It followed the lives of adoptive parents and the fight that they have to put up to bring their children home. It was heart rending. As you see these children living in orphanages in Europe, Asia and Africa, you start to realize just how devastating such an upbringing is. At one point in the movie, they rolled footage from a Romanian orphanage of a person pushing a two level medical tray with about 15 babies literally piled on it. After the movie, Melissa remarked “that could be Shepherd.”

That is Shepherd.

One of the biggest issues when trying to get a grasp on the global orphan crisis is that kids that are living in orphanages or on the streets don’t have names, just blank faces. That isn’t how God sees them, but it certainly is how people tend to see them. If we want to see how God sees, we must place our own children in that situation. That’s my baby piled on a tray, that’s my daughter being violated every night by a caretaker, that’s my son sniffing chemicals everyday on the streets.

Source
Source

Unfortunately, the majority of Christian communities have done a disservice to these children by only going up to their ankles in the ocean of these children’s needs. Long-term residential orphanages, a revolving door of missionaries and staff and short term mission band-aids have all failed to address the children’s biggest needs. These children need godly parents that are going to get their skin in the game, that are going to lay down their lives for them, that are going to live out the gospel.

My son, Moses, grew up for the first eight years of his life in an orphanage. It’s a well-known children’s home in the area with a decent following in the states. It is certainly a good orphanage relative to what orphanages typically are. I worked at the children’s home for two years and still visit the precious children there from time to time. The orphanage is run by some of the best people I know. But it’s still an orphanage—and that’s where my son has spent most of his life.

Full disclosure here as a father, something a tad uncomfortable from when we announced the adoption was the amount of good-intentioned people, most of whom I don’t know personally, that said they “know” my son. They have pictures of him, they’re locals that volunteered a time here and there, or people that have a memory of playing with him on their short term trip or something to that effect. Now, I understand that at the time such things seemed innocuous, even seemed sweet. But consider that all along, he was waiting to be adopted, waiting for someone to go to bat for him. All along, he was destined to be our son. To those visiting he was just a cute orphan, among many others, acting silly so as to get the attention that he desperately needed. Yet, he was and is and always will be my child. Now consider the other kids that are still there.

Perhaps, if we knew the fight that parents have to go through to adopt children in need, we’d tread more reverently when meeting their children and then truly seek to help these children receive their most important need. No more passing out candy, no more pictures, just supporting families.

At one point, Moses developed a very strong bond with someone that used to work at the orphanage. As time went on, this individual was led elsewhere, just as I was and many others that have worked at the orphanage. When they left, Moses was crushed. It wasn’t their fault at all, they poured into him and showed him love that he desperately needed. But he was, nonetheless, crushed. To me, this only highlights the fact that the system we’ve set up is broken and falls tragically short of meeting the child’s full needs. Unfortunately for Moses, these modes of care, while completely done with the best intentions, fell short of meeting his deepest needs. He, like millions and millions of other orphans, continued a broken life experience. I, for one, am not satisfied with that brokenness.

What’s my point in all this?

The needs of an orphan are larger than the infrastructure that we (the church) have created for them. >tweet this<

The fact that we’ve even created an infrastructure only underscores the issue. At the risk of sounding harsh, I say this. An orphan doesn’t need your institutional long-term orphanage, your short term missions trip, your ‘Like’ on Facebook or any of the other trivial things that we offer as support.

An orphan needs you.

When Jesus ministered to people, He only gave them one thing: Himself. There’s our model, friends. The way an orphan experiences full restoration in Christ is if we give ourselves to them and in so doing, they become someone’s child. Anything else falls short.

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Take this post and do something with it. Adopt. Foster. Support a family in your church that is adopting or fostering. Support financially, babysit their kids for free, ask them how you can be a positive influence in their children’s lives and the life of their family.

 

Disclaimer: This may come across as too strong, but that is intentional because the church needs a strong wake-up call. In talking about orphanages, specifically the one which I used to work at, I want to be clear. Orphanages have a role in orphan care. An orphanage should be a short term solution for a child in an urgent situation. An orphanage’s goal should not be residency, but rather to place the child in a loving family as soon as possible. We must find places where we evolve the current orphan care landscape into God’s heart for the orphan, which is that each child would have a mom and a dad. Not all orphans will be adopted tomorrow and many, sadly, will never be adopted, but we’ve got to start somewhere.

The Epidemic of Fatherlessness

“The AIDS epidemic in Africa is huge, but it’s led to an even worse epidemic and that’s children growing up without fathers.”

The words left his mouth and immediately found their home in my heart. With that single sentence a purpose for my life was birthed and a series of profound events in my life were initiated.

Can you imagine a world without AIDS? Can you imagine all the families and communities that have been devastated by this terrible disease becoming fully restored? Can you imagine every person ever infected with HIV being completely healed? I have loved ones that are HIV+ and know people that have passed away from AIDS-related issues. I can tell you the world would be a far better place without HIV/AIDS, immeasurably so.

Yet, if that opening quote is true, there is actually something worse than even a ravaging disease like AIDS. There’s a devastation more horrendous. There’s something that doesn’t just kill the body, but something that kills the soul.

Fatherlessness.

 Source
Source

Perhaps it wouldn’t take much imagination, but consider a child that grows up fatherless. A father speaks identity over his children. A fatherless child grows up not knowing who he is or what purpose he is to serve on earth. A father protects his children. A fatherless child is susceptible to all types of danger and threats. She is insecure, because there is no father there to secure her. A father delights in and takes pride in his children. A fatherless child is pining for attention and to know their value and to know that they are desirable. A father guides, corrects and lays down his life for his children. Without a father, children are inherently meandering around lost; sheep without a shepherd.

Part of our human condition is to get so wrapped up in our own lives that we stop recognizing the needs of others around us. Days, weeks and years go by and we’re consumed with the everyday demands of life; paying the bills, getting the kids to school and having dinner on the table by 5:30. Any moment of pause gets focused on our own needs or those of our closest family. Stopping the grind and considering someone else’s needs or lending a hand is often out of sight, out of mind and hence left undone.

It’s no wonder that over and over in scripture God had to break through and tell his people directly that caring for the fatherless (and widows) was something that they are mandated to do.

“Take up the cause of the fatherless” (Isaiah 1:17)
“Acceptable religion is to look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27 paraphrase)
“Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan” (Exodus 22:22)
“Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless” (Psalm 82:3)
“The aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied” (Deuteronomy 14:29)

What do these scriptures really mean to you though? If you ever have an “orphan care guy” roll through your church, they always make sure everyone knows the biblical basis for orphan care. My fear is that they just get glossed over though. We understand that the cause of the orphan is important to God, but typically have no tangible work among them. Nor do we desire to begin one, or adopt a child in need. But if we are merely hearers of the word and do nothing with it, what do we profit?

What if the orphan care guy instead walks in with an actual orphan? What if in a Sunday service, he’s able to show the child’s heart to the congregation? He shows the insecurity, the fear, the directionless. He shows that the child, just wants to be wanted. He shows that the child is needing a name, needing an identity. Would our hearts then be moved?

The thing about epidemics is that they spread organically. Someone coughs, spits or bleeds and those around them are now at risk. One person’s sickness leads to another person’s sickness. That’s how it works among the fatherless as well.

Fatherlessness begets fatherlessness. It spreads and can devastate entire populations. tweet this

That’s what’s happened in Africa and in complete honesty has happened through the entire world.

What is it that ends an epidemic? Intent. Caring people draw a line and say it ends here and from that point, they push back the tide. Such intent is indeed costly. It may cost you everything you have. You might have to throw out all the plans that you had for your life. You might have to empty your bank account. You might have to take that perfect little family picture that you had and go to great lengths just to wreck it.

But in so doing, we stamp out this devastating epidemic that has claimed far too many lives already.

Can you imagine a world without fatherlessness? Can you imagine every child in the world with a last name that means something to them? Can you imagine every boy and girl being secured within the love of a father that went to great lengths to claim them as his own? Can you imagine children off the streets, out of orphanages and into homes where the head of the family loves, guides, corrects and trains the children up in the way that they should go? Can you imagine a world without fatherlessness?

 

Keep building.

 

 

*The opening quote was from the preacher Mike Pilavachi in a sermon he gave at my church on Father’s Day 2007. This was the day that I first felt called to work among orphans in Africa.

I Want a King

In Tanzania we don’t have a TV, we don’t have cable, or the normal shows on Hulu and definitely don’t have my personal favorite, ESPN. Naturally, I’ve enjoyed getting to watch a little bit as we’ve been staying at Melissa’s parents house the last couple weeks. If you watch football, you know that they cut to commercial break every chance they get and in this particular season that means a lot of political ads. ‘Incessant’ would be a word that I’d use.

I’m not a fan of most of them. Some of them seem on-point and might have some sway, but the ones that I dislike the most are the negative ads. Twenty-eight seconds of dark footage, dreary music and a foreboding voice telling you how a particular politician is going to single-handedly destroy the country if elected to office. Two seconds of a video with a happy multi-racial, multi-generational group and the opposing politician saying “I’m so and so and I approve this message.” If anything it makes me want to vote against the person that approves the message. The whole deal kind of makes me sick.

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Source – https://www.flickr.com/photos/truthout/

I asked Melissa’s stepdad if he had the voter information packet that they send out and he gave it to me. I try to be an informed voter as best I can and had a bit to catch up on having been in Tanzania the last year. I was going through the different propositions and the pro’s and con’s list that they have for each one. These three big important people are for it and these three big important people are against it. Again, the balance of the entire state rests on this one ballot measure, or so it seems. As I was flipping through and having a hard time deciding between all the different options, I had this thought come to mind, “I don’t want to do this. I want someone to decide for me.”

I know what you might be thinking. Brandon isn’t going to vote and he’s going to tell us we shouldn’t bother either. That’s not the case, I will vote tomorrow and you should too.

The thing is, I want a king. I want a good King that knows my heart, would give His life for me and wants to put me on the right path. I want Jesus to rule.

I have been on a political journey over the last ten years. I turned 18 in 2004 and was so happy that I got to vote in the major elections that year. I had my elephant badge on quite straight and cast my vote for W. at the San Miguel Community Center. I had plans to study history and political science at university and potentially try my hand in the political arena after college. When I think back to that and realize that was actually in my head at any point in my life, I’m astonished.

I did go off to school at Vanguard and did enter as a history and political science major, that plan started to change as I realized I wanted to teach little kids. Then I had professors that actually challenged me to think critically about what I believed and why. More importantly, they challenged me to compare planks in my political platform (or the Republican platform which I identified with) to that of the Bible.

As a Republican, for example, I supported the death penalty. I would quip that the people deserved to die for what they had done – those heinous and evil crimes. I then started to think about Jesus and what He did when presented with the woman in John’s gospel who was caught in the act of adultery, a crime that by law was punishable by death. He didn’t condemn her, but showed her grace and told her to go and sin no more. I also started to consider within this political framework some of Paul’s most famous words from Romans. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (3:23). “For the wages of sin is death” (6:23a). According to the Bible, it’s not just those bad people on death row, actually I am also deserving of death. But Paul continues on that we can be “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (3:24) and that the “gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (6:23b). God showed grace to people on death row.

All of a sudden I lose the plank in my platform. Then I started to read Shane Claiborne. Yes, I was one of those. I still am, kind of. Over a couple years, I was so moved that I actually wrote in “Jesus of Nazareth” on my 2008 presidential ballot. Granted, he’s not an American citizen but I felt pretty confident that God knew what I meant by that. It was worth the heat that I caught from one friend on Facebook that I was wasting my vote and not taking this seriously enough. No biggie. I resolved that my vote for president didn’t matter anyway by virtue of living in California. I just couldn’t bring myself to vote for McCain or Obama as they both had huge deal breakers for me.

Time continued to pass along. I lived in Tanzania, got married, had a kid and when the 2012 elections rolled around I had settled down a little bit and decided I would vote for an eligible person for president this time around. That man was Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party. He wasn’t on the ballot in CA (was only on the ballot in 17 states), but he was the candidate that I identified most with and I have grown to really dislike the two-party system. The only way to change something is if people decide to start doing something different. What a novel idea.

In living in Tanzania, I’ve experienced another government that is more overtly corrupt than ours and that is also a bit disheartening. The opposition party is strong in Kilimanjaro, but the same party has, nonetheless, ruled since independence 50 years ago. I have friends that support ChaDema and put their hope that if they took office in Dodoma things would be different. Then I realize that my friends in the states are the same way. So much of their hope is in the Republicans or the Democrats or this person or that cause.

But I want a king. My hope, all of my hope, is in Jesus. If the people that are elected tomorrow or in 2016 aren’t the people that I voted for, I will not bat an eye. They aren’t the ones that are in charge of my life. Jesus is. Jesus is on the throne and we cannot thwart that. I am not going to be one of those that after an election or supreme court decision writes of America as going to hell in hand basket. That would almost assume that America was in heaven at some point which I don’t buy in the least bit.

Interestingly, Jesus’ foremost message was about the Kingdom of God. A Kingdom is a form of government where one guy makes all the decisions. Furthermore He says that this Kingdom is at hand – as in it’s within reach. He tells us to repent and believe in the Gospel (Mark 1:15). We have to repent, we have to humble ourselves and change the destructive patterns that we’ve been working in. We have to believe that the Gospel message is true and should be central to our lives, our families, our homes, our societies and our Facebook posts.

You should vote tomorrow and you should utilize the political capability that you have as an American citizen. We should also pray tomorrow. We should pray for God’s hand over the elections and even more so over the problems that this state, this country and this world face. If things don’t go the way you’d like tomorrow, don’t fret. If Jesus is your King, you’re already on the winning side and nothing could ever change that. 

Someone That Edits Your Life

Transitions and new seasons tend to give us opportunities to have our faith stretched and our character tested. Our family is coming up on one such time as we head back to the states for a four month furlough eleven days from now. A couple weeks ago, with this transition on my mind and a bit of fear in my heart, I wrote a blog post. You didn’t read that blog post though. No one did, because it never got posted.

After pouring myself into it for a hour or so, I could tell that it was coming off as a bit ‘edgy’ or at least that’s what I would have called it. I don’t typically read my blogs to Melissa before posting, but this time I did because I knew it was a little more involved. She heard me out and said that she resonated with a lot of what I wrote. Then she told me that I shouldn’t post it, to at least sleep on it. I wasn’t too stoked on that. I feel like my writing has been so sporadic that when I do actually get something down, I want to post it. I thought with this post the redemptive qualities outweighed the negative aspects to the post.

She challenged me “how do we be real about our sharing, but not lose sight of the hope that we have?” “How do we honor those that have graciously supported and partnered with us, while stirring up others towards good as well?” I pouted and told her that I wouldn’t post it.

The next day I realized that she was right and that blog is still sitting in my drafts.

I need my wife. For a million and one reasons, but this one for sure. She edits my life. She didn’t just edit the blog post. She edited what was in my heart. Through my writing, she could see that I was speaking out of fear, I was dwelling on disappointment, I wasn’t honoring and I wasn’t uplifting those that would hear from me. She lovingly, compassionately helped me understand where I was and how to follow God more closely and show love and grace to others.

The funny thing is, a very similar instance happened about four years ago. I blogged more regularly then and decided to make a post about blogging and my lack of true community and disappointment with friends in the states. It all came across quite negatively, though I liked to think I was speaking tongue in cheek and merely being satirical. I got an email shortly thereafter from a young lady that I hardly knew but went to high school with. It was clear that I had offended her through my post. I subsequently deleted the post, but not until after a handful of people read it.

The difference between those stories wasn’t me. In both stories, I had fear and insecurity, I was ungrateful and unkind. The difference is that someone came alongside me a couple weeks ago and edited my heart, my attitude and yeah, even my writing a little bit.

We all need people like this in our lives. It doesn’t have to be a spouse, though for those of us that are married, they should certainly be included. I have friends of mine, my parents and others that have that ability to edit my life.

Whoever it is that gets to speak into one’s life in this way, they must realize it is a privilege and one that comes with growing trust and mutual vulnerability. There will be plenty of people that would love to tell you everything that you should be doing with your life, but they do it from a place of control and self-interest. I’m not really interested in such relationships personally. There are others that might be on the right track, but haven’t yet dove into the vulnerability that it requires or experienced life with the other person enough to really have that editing authority. This is a process, but a truly beautiful process.

On Wednesday, I found myself freaking out again. I was worried about a number of things. Our car was in the shop and we were needing to get stuff done and were now worried about how much it would cost to fix it. And on the other end, we still had (and currently have) so many unknowns awaiting us with our upcoming furlough. Despite our communicating through Facebook, YouTube and newsletters, we still don’t know what we’ll be driving while in California or where exactly we’ll be staying. So yeah, I was freaking out.

Melissa pulled me out of my whirlwind and said, let’s read the Bible together. She then read from Matthew 6 and reminded me that it’s not for me to worry about what our furlough is going to look like or where our money is going to come from. Today has enough trouble of it’s own and our Father in Heaven knows what we need. Just seek first His Kingdom and righteousness. Good word. When somebody speaks truth louder than the worries in your head, all you can do is sit back and say ‘yeah, you’re right.’

Who edits your life? If you’re like me, you need it on a normal basis. One of the things that Melissa and I have struggled with is finding true community and those people that have that ability to edit our lives. We should all be striving for that together in our families and in our social circles. It takes vulnerability, it takes true humility, it takes wisdom and discernment, it takes intentionality and a whole lot of effort. The most important thing that makes all the effort worthwhile is that it’s through these relationships that we see the Kingdom of God manifest on earth and the Church reach what Christ’s intention is.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” -Jesus (John 13:34-35)

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Me and my Senior Editor

The Audience

Photo Cred: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dmjames58/
Photo Cred: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dmjames58/

You ever hear someone talk about identity and how identity is all about knowing whose you are? I feel like ‘identity’ is a bit of a buzzword right now in Christian communities and I would say rightfully so. We must know who we belong to. In my experience with this notion of knowing whose you are, the answer I’ve been given is always for one to know that they are a beloved son or daughter of God. It has a lot of affection and sentiment attached to it and rightfully so. I’ll be honest though, when people would give this answer it hasn’t always resounded with me. Not because I don’t believe it, on the contrary, it’s because I’ve always known it. It’s core to my being and is something like the air I breathe.

I was reading in a book* that I borrowed from my friend Mark and the authors approached that same understanding of knowing whose you are from a different angle. It wasn’t the familial, affectionate answer that I’ve grown accustomed to, but rather a straightforward and clear answer. Knowing whose you are is all about deciding who is the authority over your life and who is your primary audience.

I had to read over the paragraph a few times because it really struck me.

I can’t help but think about all the things that we do and the motivations that we put behind them. There is no shortage of things to spend one’s life doing and often we do such things with somebody else in mind. In a lot of ways it seems only natural. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing so long as one’s heart is pointed in the right direction.

Social media come to mind. In some ways, as a missionary, we have a heightened draw towards Facebook and the like. This basically happens because the vast majority of the people that we’re friends with on Facebook are not people that we see on a normal basis. I’m not talking about high school friends from ten or twenty years ago, I’m talking about our very closest friends too, the ones that we left back in America. Not only that though what people see online has a direct affect on our funding. Kind of a big deal, or so we think.

This experience is far from unique to us though. Most people, to one degree or another, imagine or actually have some sort of life audience that they hope to appease and entertain. Just the other day we had fifty or so people over to our house for Promise’s birthday party and it’s very easy to get into this mindset where you want to impress others and put on a good show. The problem with that becomes, whether it’s online or in real life, you end up getting burnt out as you realize this hunger to impress your audience is insatiable.

That’s the good thing about having God as your only audience and authority. You allow Him to do what He wants through your life, and He, as your audience, will always be pleased with you.

With our furlough quickly approaching, this has been a good reminder. We’ll be in the states for a little over four months and for missionaries, this is not down time and for the most part not a sabbatical. There are aspects that we look forward to like re-connecting with friends and family and enjoying certain conveniences, but there are plenty that we don’t look forward to like bouncing around from house to house, not having our own car and going from day to day with unclear plans and provision. All the while, you are trying to speak at churches to drum up support for your family and your ministry. You get in front of a church audience and hope that they find you appealing. It’s exhausting.

My hope and prayer is that I would live every day remembering, no matter what I’m doing, that I do it for an audience of One. I don’t have to worry if He saw a particular Facebook post or heard me speak when I was in the area. He sees it all and knows everything about me and what I do. He has the provision that I need, He puts righteous motivation within me.

*The book is Lead Like Jesus by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges. So far so good.