A few years ago my son and daughter-in law went on what turned out to be a harrowing trip to Uganda to find a little boy who had lost both of his parents. In the hand-to-mouth existence that is Uganda, this wee lad had turned up on a makeshift website put together by an impoverished orphanage. While surfing about on the web one night, my son and daughter-in-law somehow landed on this page and saw Jude. It was love at first sight. Jude had been living at times with an Aunt who herself was too poor and too sick to properly care for him. Moreover, there was abuse involved. At the age of three or four, he had escaped into the jungle and was living off the land as best he could until he found his way to this small orphanage. His survival is a miracle.
On the trip from Kampala, several hours up into the jungle to where the orphanage was located, the cab my kids had hired broke down. The cab driver flagged down a motorcycle. The kids jumped on the back with their luggage, along with the driver of the bike, and off they went. They immediately left the road and took off on a trail through the jungle. Did I mention that there was a violent thunderstorm coming down on them? It was wretched and scary. They stopped along the way at a hut to wait out the storm. There was no electricity – just the eyes of strangers peering at them through candlelight.
They finally arrived at a ramshackle concern that was perched on a hill. As they hefted their luggage and began the climb, a little boy quietly appeared. This little guy was wearing the same clothes they had seen him in when casting about on the internet. The orphan was looking down for the first time on his new mom and dad. He was no longer alone. His life was about to be radically changed – and all to the good.
When Jesus was bringing comfort to his disciples, he said this: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you…” ~John 14:18 The word for orphan is rather strong in this case. It indicates more than just the physical reality of not having parents. It also includes the heaviness of bereavement. An orphan not only knows fear, an orphan knows sorrow. Soon enough the disciples would experience both. And Jesus, knowing this, assures them that though absent in the body, his presence would remain.
One of the great testimonies of the Christian faith is this sense that we are surrounded, all the time, in all places, no matter the circumstance and no matter the reciprocity of our faith. Once we’re adopted we are adopted. There is a covering and a companionship. While that might sound terribly subjective to an outsider, it is nonetheless the consistent testimony of those who have given themselves over to a heavenly adoption. He will never leave us or forsake us. David would foreshadow this truth with these words: Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. Psalm 139:7-12
As I sat next to our adopted miracle the other night for dinner – who just turned 9 – I thought once more of the Father’s heart toward us. We cannot escape the Father’s love. Adopted children are kids who’ve been sought out, who are wanted. As Jude asked for his 4th helping(!), I smiled. Excess toward a beloved, wanted child is effortless. And its true as well of heaven toward us. We are wanted. He will not leave us as orphans. The Apostle Paul once said, “As God’s adopted children, we are His heirs and fellow-heirs with Christ…” ~Romans 8:17. Take a moment before you run headlong into your day and let that wash over you. You’ve been sought out. You’re in. You are part of a forever family.