REMEMBER THE ORPHAN’S POSTURE
Imagine yourself receiving this news. The paperwork for the child your family has been waiting to adopt from overseas is finally finished. Your new son is from war-torn Sudan. He lost both his parents in the relentless bombing and desperately needs a new home as soon as possible. Elated, you fly to the country and make plans to visit the orphanage where he has been living for the past year. You have brought a couple of presents to give to him and you stop to pick up some balloons that morning to commemorate this wonderful occasion. When you arrive, the director of the orphanage takes you aside. “You will have to re-think the way you are going to greet him,” she says. “All he has seen are the ravages of war. He trusts no one and rarely comes out of the corner of his room.”
This is the posture of the orphan. Withdrawn, suspicious, distant. How will you adapt your plan to meet him? You will pray a lot. You will hold back the balloons, maybe even the gifts initially. You will slower your pace, call his name softly, kneel down to eye level. You will try to encourage a moment of eye contact so he can see the love in your eyes. You will pray for God to give you some kind of tender gesture to build a thread of credibility. You know it’s going to be a slow process. Much time will pass before you will have a child who knows how to receive love. Normal life is quite far off.
Why do I have you imagine this scene? Because many of us will be called upon to care for someone severely wounded and/or in a condition where they can’t speak. For some, their life-story has been such that they feel they are only safe if they stay away from people. They have been tucked away behind a wall of mis-trust. Or, others are in ICU, in and out of a coma, on life support, and can’t speak. They may look at you now and then but there are no words. How comfortable will you be in their presence? The learned ways you use to reach everyone else will not be effective for this person. Cards, flowers, or a phone call will not do it.
It’s time to re-assess. Coming to sit with them, praying their story, respecting their fear and being willing to make slow progress, these are some of the things required. God will help you customize efforts to win trust and impact their heart. He knows how they are made, knows their story, and He is the only One who knows perfectly how to build a bridge. He excels with non-verbals. “I’ll pour robust well-being into her like a river. You’ll nurse at her breasts, nestle in her bosom, and be bounced on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so I’ll comfort you.” Isaiah 66:12-13 These are all gestures that don’t require talking. Nestling, bouncing, nursing, comforting. There are times when words aren’t enough but God is not limited in love language. Nor are we. Though we may be initially uncomfortable, love carries us through the discomfort. God will show us how to do what so few are willing to do.
Some of your most powerful miracles with people didn’t involve words. Breathing on your disciples, urging Elisha to lay on the dead child of the Shunamite woman. I am willing to reach out and be unconventional for the sake of someone who needs You. Use me, Lord. Amen