I’m an orphan.
Orphans aren’t just babies left at birth. Some orphans are adults. I lived my first twenty-one years of life as a child with two parents and a huge family. Some would say I’m fortunate to have had twenty-one years in a loving family. I would agree with that but I also think it’s difficult to compare my life to someone else’s. I don’t think we experience pain, trauma and loss the same way.
We often hear about the child orphan, but what about an adult orphan? Are they forgotten, do we view them as old enough to handle the loss of their parents so we dismiss their grief?
I lost mine suddenly and both at the same time but they didn’t die. Have I totally confused you?
My story might be unique but then again, maybe it’s not. People don’t talk about adult orphans so it’s hard to tell. Here’s part of my story:
I was raised in a big, exciting, loving family. I was the ninth out of eleven kids so my first memories are of weddings and nieces and nephews. We were raised with religion. They called themselves non-denomination but that was simply because the church didn’t want to be affiliated with anyone. A church like the one I grew up in couldn’t affiliate with any other churches because they literally believed and taught that their church was the only church going to heaven.
As a child, naturally you believe everything you are taught. Even when things don’t add up, you learn that it’s not a good thing to question anything. So not only were we better than everyone else on earth, we couldn’t go to the doctor or risk going to hell and were restricted to only marrying someone within our tiny church. Divorce was prohibited except for a case of adultery, which meant the adulterer had to be kicked out and was told they were going to hell without exception.
I’m admittedly shortening the details so that I can get to the part where I became an orphan. It’s going to sound a little crazy too. When I was twenty, life started to get confusing as church leaders began to change the rules. Women were told not to speak in the presence of men while at a bible study and they began to tell people to throw away their worldly processions. People were so desperate to follow God that they did whatever these men said, at least for a short time. The deception didn’t stop there.
After the church split and each side claimed the other was going to hell, I began to question. I was twenty one and nobody was standing up to the leadership. It started when I talked to my family who were on the other side of the split, someone snitched on me. I asked questions and the Pastor was infuriated. He asked me why God would show someone like me anything. Within days, I was cut off and told that I was going to hell. The Pastor instructed my parents and my husband to cut me off completely. I was six months pregnant with my second child. My husband didn’t leave, instead he was also cut off.
My parents though, they had just enough fear for the Pastor that they listened. They didn’t have to even question whether it was the right decision or not because they had been groomed to follow everything the church told them to do. That day would be the last day that I would hug my parents.
I was twenty one, and orphaned. I was confused because I was told that I no longer was saved. I didn’t feel evil, but those words haunted me for a few years. I lived my life as if I was serving God but I wasn’t sure if I was saved anymore. My church cut me off, my parents cut me off and half of my siblings cut me off.
I was set free from the lies because I spent time alone with God. I was alone even though I was married, had kids and numerous friends. When my parents rejected me it was the most confusing and traumatic thing I had ever gone through.
I went from a family that everyone was envious because we looked so loving, to a family torn apart. It was so sudden that all the processing in my mind occurred after the fact.
Shortly after I was cut off I saw my mother in the store. My two year old child ran to my mom saying, “Grandma”, and my mother just turned and walked the other way. That is seared into my memory. I can’t forget it but I was to soon realize that I would need to forgive.
When I was twenty-five I went to a counselor, I saw her twice. All I needed was simple direction. She told me that I would never be able to get my mother to admit the pain she caused me so I needed to forgive her so that I could move on. I believed her advice and took action. I was able to be at peace finally as I let go of what I thought I needed which was her admission of guilt.
Even though I felt rejected, I realize my parents weren’t rejecting me. They lived in fear and believed that someone could tell them that they lost their salvation just by talking to me. They went to their grave thinking that they had to give up their children in order to be right with God. For this, I am sad that they were deceived. They never knew what grace is. Satan does that, he takes things that aren’t his.
“For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs”. Zephaniah 3:17
I imagine God taking delight as He put my broken pieces back together just as I would after my child skinned her knee and needs to be bandaged. I’m thankful to be the one to make her pain seem not so bad and to set her back on her bike so she can soar. I can imagine God being pleased when we allow Him to make our pain seem not so bad and to set us back up on our feet so we can soar.
“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groaning that cannot be expressed in words.” Romans 8:26
I remember feeling such a great loss that I had no words to express the pain. I opened my mouth and there was nothing I could say. So, I told the Lord, “You know my loss and only You can mend the broken heart I have.”
I missed out on more than I’d like to admit. Not having my parents at such a crucial time, was excruciating. I only made it through that time because I was loved by a good Father. He put into motion a plan many years before I was cut off, a way to make me feel loved. My sisters are much older than I am. God gave them the sweetest love for me. Growing up, I had sisters who were more like a parent. They will never fill the role of my parents but they have sure loved me well. They loved me so well that I did not fall apart when I lost my parents.
There is something I repeat often, “I don’t know what God knows.” Because of this I am able to be more forgiving and less judgmental. God started out with a plan and His plan is better than anything I can come up with.
The decisions my parents made brought me a lot of pain and made me an orphan. I always hoped that God would restore my relationship with them but my father passed when I was twenty-three and my mother passed away when I was thirty-one. Even though I didn’t have a relationship with them for many years, I had hoped that I would. God didn’t fail me; it was my parents’ decision to stay where they were.
I’ve since seen miracle after miracle happen within my family. Even though my loss is great, I have come to know the Lord in a way that I never would have if I hadn’t been kicked out of my parents’ church. I questioned and that caused me to lose what I greatly loved and eventually gain so much more than I lost.
God never let me down, people did. He is the one who picked me up and gave me a new life. He’s been a father to the fatherless from the day I lost both of my parents.
He defends the weak and the fatherless; upholding the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Psalm 82:3
If you have ever questioned what your church leadership is teaching you, even if you’ve heard it from birth, my advice is to ask the Lord to reveal Himself to you. If your beliefs are based on a set of rules that don’t line up with what Jesus taught, then question why. Find a safe person to ask questions to. Pray and pray until you have heard from the Lord. If it isn’t in the scripture then it isn’t doctrine. Jesus came to save the world, not a denomination.
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Revelation 5:9