Like An Orphan

The email from our community group leaders said they would be out of town, but everyone could still get together if someone wanted to open their home to host. I felt a knot begin to form in my stomach. My fingers were heavy as lead on the keyboard.

I would not answer this email—yet. I would wait to see who would volunteer to host. Please let someone else volunteer to host!

I recently re-read Grace Church’s Biblical Femininity study book, having participated in it some six years ago. I was overdue for a refresher. While many topics were convicting to me, I was particularly struck by a section towards the back of the book, called “Living Like An Orphan.” After explaining that women too often fail to actually live day-to-day in the good news of the gospel, the author goes on to give many examples of evidence of this tendency in a woman’s life. The words on pages 152 and 153 smacked me right between the eyes, the same eyes that had just read the above-mentioned email. Shame, it said, is one trait of living like an orphan. It’s a fear of being exposed in your weakness. “Shame comes from believing the lie that your identity, who you are, is based on how you or others perceive you.” Was I really too ashamed to invite my community group over to my house?

Looking back, I can see now how I’ve always had sort of an orphan-bent. When I was little, it was a common game for me to play “orphans” with my dolls. The ideas of orphans and adoption were appealing to me somehow. Behaviorally, I was biblically orphan-like for certain: shy, submissive, looking to copy others’ sense of style and creativity, having only one friend at a time who really knew anything about me. But that was then and this is now, right?

“Shame, it said, is one trait of living like an orphan. It’s a fear of being exposed in your weakness.”

Having been saved 13 years ago, I know for certain that I am a daughter of the King of Kings. Why, then, am I still living as an orphan when it comes to shame? When I’m at home with my family, I don’t feel ashamed. But when the possibility arises of letting others enter into the reality of our humble home, I clam up like the little kid version of myself. Like an orphan.

I once saw true gospel freedom modeled in this arena. I was on a mission trip in Ukraine, and one of our in-country local leaders with whom we served invited me over to her apartment one afternoon. I could tell that she was very proud of her beautiful city and her home. When I walked through the front door, I could see before me a simple one-bedroom apartment. It was homey and decorated with her unique sense of style, but it was very small. A small living area with one sofa faced a tinier kitchen with bar stools being the only dining spot. They had one small separate bedroom and one bathroom. She had lived there since marrying her husband, and they were raising their then-teenage son there as well. So a family of three was living in this small one-bedroom apartment. She and her husband slept on the pull-out sofa, giving her son the private bedroom. She couldn’t have been more proud. They were happy here. She had no reservations about showing me this. She had visited the United States in the past and had seen typical U.S. homes. But the joy on her face was completely free of any thought of comparison. It made such an impression on me, and the memory serves me still as it has radically shaped my own desires and expectations for housing for my family. I can feel to my core who God is calling me to be in these kinds of life details.  The world just gets in the way and often I fail to stand in the power and truth of the gospel, which says I am free from the sin of shame. I too am free to share everything I have, without reservation.

“I know for certain that I am a daughter of the King of Kings. Why, then, am I still living as an orphan when it comes to shame?”

In the past 13 years since being saved, everything about my life has changed so much.  Clearly, though, this is an area where God is still heartily at work. Looking back, I can now see details in my experiences that pointed to the work that’s being done in me now. Sometimes it’s so literal that I either have to laugh or just stand in deep humility that I truly am in need of graceful hand-holding of this magnitude. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that my married name of seven years is Usher. Just as a name change in the Bible established a new identity or revealed a change of divine plan for a person’s life, so my becoming a literal “usher” may have been required to help me “get it” as far as understanding how I am to be now—how to respond to the shameful tendencies of the past which I no longer need to carry. An usher doesn’t hesitate to invite and lead others into the kingdom of God. As the song “God of the Redeemed” says: “Love has come and we’re orphans no longer … Here on earth just as in heaven we usher in the reign of your kingdom.” Talk about conviction! God speaks these words–to all of us–in the prophetic perfect tense. As if it’s already happened. Because it has already happened.

Grudem’s Systematic Theology states that, “This concept of the church as God’s family should give us a new perspective on the work of the church: it is ‘family work,’ and the various members of the family never should compete with each other or hinder one another in their efforts, but should encourage one another and be thankful for whatever good or whatever progress comes to any member of the family, for all are contributing to the good of the family and the honor of God our Father.” God is telling me who He’s made me to be–a daughter. He’s telling you who he’s made you to be–brothers and sisters. We are a family. We have a purpose. We’ve been commissioned. Our remaining orphan tendencies must be shown in the community of this family so that we can find the freedom to run the race and keep the long view in sight. Jesus’ yoke is easy but there’s real work to be done even if it means opening my home to freely to share what I have—without reservation.

“May He give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.” —2 Thessalonians 1:11

Kathy Usher

Kathy is often amused by God’s creativity and timing in her life. After years of singleness and a career, God turned her life upside down. Today, her “business card” would say: Wife. Mother. Teacher. Follower of Christ. Kathy attends our Powdersville campus.