There is a scene I recall from Little Orphan Annie worth taking note. Annie has just arrived at her new home, a virtual palace that has been set up for her and for her enjoyment by her adopted father, Daddy Warbucks. Upon entering the foyer, with household staff lined up to greet and welcome her, Annie gazes at her new surroundings. Daddy Warbucks asks: “What do you think, Annie?” “It’s beautiful”, she replies. “Well, where do you want to begin?” She muses for a moment, then shrugs her shoulders: “Bring me a bucket. I will start with the stairs.”
This scene presents a vivid illustration of the way many Christians, those adopted by God the Father through the blood of Jesus the Son, view life and their relationship with our Redeemer-Creator.
Jesus makes the promise:
“I will not leave you as orphans.” (John 14.18)
Yet, like Annie, we are conditioned to think like orphans and feel we must do something to earn our keep, or else face some kind of rejection. Even if our theology tells us otherwise, this is a common dilemma. This cognitive dissonance is the difference between our confessional faith and our functional faith.
What does it look like to be a Child of God with an Orphan Mentality? Consider the distinctions from the two lists below:
- Confidence in Self, People, and/or Circumstances
- Confidence constantly shaken by disappointments with circumstances, people, or self.
- Fears increase through life; fears fluctuate depending upon circumstances.
- Confused handling of criticism from others – moving back and forth between denial/self justification and self flagellation/discouragement/depression.
- Gossip and lack of tongue control reveals defensiveness and judgmental attitudes.
- Lifestyle characterized by insecurities, jealousies, and concealed grudges.
- Ignorance of the potency of prayer in securing the Spirit’s presence and power.
- Purpose of life is living for our significance (sometimes even erroneously basing our identity & reputation on Christian endeavors & successes rather than in our Union with Christ…) and/or our own comfort.
- Confidence in Christ ALONE.
- Confidence in Christ increases even as self, people, and/or circumstances disappoint.
- Fears are increasingly overcome by faith and love.
- Sifting through criticisms, and discerning in light of the gospel, rejecting false and misplaced allegations, while accepting valid criticisms, finding even the kernels of truth in them, and repenting of sin while believing the gospel anew.
- Speak the language of Praise to the Father, affirmation of others and, when wronged, forgiveness & reconciliation (directly to the persons involved whenever appropriate).
- Gospel is made the center of motivations and the basis for behavior.
- Lifestyle characterized by forgiveness, blessing, and prayer for our enemies and those who have wronged us.
- Understanding the potency of prayer in securing the Spirit’s presence and power.
- Purpose in life is to discover true happiness, and understands that true happiness is found in laying down life for Christ and for others.
As we think through these two lists we will likely notice, if we are honest with ourselves, that even on our better days we have characteristics of both, or that we fluctuate between them. This is not cause to despair, but rather opportunity to believe anew what Jesus has done for us. Don’t make the mistake of unreflectively assuming and assigning to self only the better qualities. The psalmists provide us with a model worth emulating of raw honesty – both confessing and believing. Honest reflection is the essence of spiritual authenticity and genuine vitality.