James 1:27 - Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world
When I left for Cape Town, South Africa in November of last year, it was my first mission trip. I had heard many say that it would change my life and I was anxious to see how that would play out for me. I would soon discover that God would do such an important shift in my thinking that it made life change inevitable.
Prior to that journey, my definitions for the words “orphan” and “widow” were very traditional ones. My thoughts were in line with the dictionary definitions which are as follows:
Orphan - child without parents; a child whose parents are both dead
Widow - woman whose husband has died
At first I was confused when the children whom we built beds for in Cape Town did not fall into this traditionally defined Orphan category. Weren’t we supposed to be caring for orphans? Most of these kids are cared for by their mother. What God revealed to me is that these children were orphans and these mothers were widows.
What was missing in every single case was a father. Without the loving, supportive role of the male leader of the household , these mothers and these children suffered from the same things that traditionally defined orphans and widows do. What I walked away with was a priceless gift: freedom from looking through a telescope to find those that God wants me to look after in their distress. When I set down the scope, I saw that the broader picture offered many to help. Overwhelming? Yes. Inspiring? Very.
I remember coming to this poignant realization a couple months after I had returned home. I was sharing with a congregation that I knew quite well about my recent journey to South Africa. I was struggling to communicate the way God had changed my heart. I now know that the reason for my struggle was because I was just discovering that change myself. I looked out into the crowd and saw a young girl whom I had known for several years, belly swollen with child, abandoned by the baby’s father. It was in that moment that I realized, it was for her… and the many that are like her that, prior to my trip, I would have never seen as widows... or orphans.
Recently I have gone back to work after almost 5 years of staying home to care for my own children. It’s a move that was necessary, but I have not felt at peace about the decision since I had hoped to be home until my little Noah went to pre-school. Last night as I prayed about this, God lifted the veil of my sadness long enough for me to come to a couple of realizations:
1. I did not seek out this job. It just kind of fell in my lap. When stuff like that happens in my life, I can’t help but see God’s divine orchestration of something beautiful in my life.
2. My job consists in large part of loving on and encouraging mothers and babies, most of which fall into my newly broadened definition of orphans and widows.
I hear Him saying, “I have prepared you for this, child. Trust me.”
And peace, like a river, attendeth my soul…