Two weeks ago, I woke up with two parents. Today I woke up an orphan.
Orphan. What image does that word paint in your mind?
Growing up in a family that watched and participated in musicals, my first thought is Annie, with her curly red hair and freckles trapped in an orphanage waiting for parents who are never coming back. My next thought is Oliver, asking for more gruel and being kicked out on his ear to fend for himself and learn to “pick a pocket or two.”
I’ve never really thought about an orphan being an adult. But it’s true… now I am now an orphan.
Many people, at a loss for words, sought to comfort me by reminding me that God has a special heart for orphans. Having grown up in church, I know that “pure and undefiled religion” is to care for orphans and widows.
With the loss of my father, I was reminded of the many times in scripture that God promises to be the Father to the Fatherless. These thoughts comforted me as I began to grieve the loss of dad in such a surprising and tragic way on March 29th.
Sunday I was listening to a pastor explain that his grandfather died when his father was young and, as a result, his father was very absent. Yet, when my father endured the same tragedy, he leveraged that pain to develop a heart for those without parents. I have been inundated the last two weeks with examples of how he filled the role of father for many fatherless boys.
I made the decision this weekend that I would take my father’s path. I decided that I would allow this tragedy to shape me for the better and to equip me for the ministry that God has planned for my future.
The loss of mom on Tuesday was devastating and for a moment I was without words (an uncommon state for me, for sure). Once the wave of shock rolled over me and the pain began to set in, I immediately resolved that my commitment to see God bring beauty from this pain was even more important.
My parents were amazing. They loved and served with everything that they had until their last moments on earth. My father passed driving the bus full of seniors returning from their annual choir retreat. My mother was working on details for the annual Seder up until she went to sleep. Both of them were a gift to this world and wanted nothing more than to leave the world better than they found it.
To have them gone so suddenly and so tragically, I believe God must have a plan to redeem their deaths just as He redeemed my father’s fatherlessness.
The last 48 hours so many people have told me they are amazed by my strength… but I don’t feel strong. I feel hurt and confused. I feel a bit lost and unsure. Mostly, I feel a childlike curiosity.
It’s like watching an artist as a young child. I see the black strokes that have been made on the canvas and I can look around the studio and see all the beautiful works of art the artist has already finished. With wonder and curiosity, I look at the marred canvas in front of him and ask “how will these dark strokes become something beautiful?”
I have walked with God through many good days and bad days and He has never left me alone or abandoned me. The most painful and confusing events in my life have always been used for my good. His character is unchanged, although my circumstances seem uncertain, and I can walk in confidence because I have been here before.
Annie is eventually adopted by Daddy Warbucks and Oliver is adopted by Mr. Brownlow. While I don’t have a rich man looking to adopt me and redeem my future, I do have the richest Father in the world, one who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and He has promised that he will make all things work for good for those who trust Him.
We all face pain in life. We can choose to let that pain make us victims and live selfish, irresponsible lives. Or we can choose to search for the hand of God coming in to redeem our pain and turn it into something beautiful. I choose the latter and I am excited to see what big things God has planned to redeem this tragic and painful situation for my good and His glory.