The little red-head from Prince Edward Island haunts the Canadian memory with pleasant echoes. The adorable Shirley Temple played the waiting child in nearly all her movies. The Fievel’s and Cinderella’s, Oliver Twist’s and Life of Pi’s—these characters beckon us into their story. Somehow, separated by generations, culture, and the fact that we are real, we identify with them. We find them kindred souls; and their moments of virtuosity resonate in our hearts.
Why? Why should we find ourselves in their stories? What is it that makes us kin to a fake, or far-removed character?
They are all orphans, abandoned or cast off, hidden from sight. They come as whimpers in the night, disturbing our sleep. They come as dark whispers in the sunshine, a shadow on our perfect day. They come as echoes: a sad, soft reality waiting to be discovered, longing to be known and resolved.
Their stories come tragic, dramatic, warming our hearts and melting us with joy in their conclusion. But why? Why should we care?
We care because we are orphans. Whether abandoned, disappointed, brushed aside, forgotten, ignored . . . somewhere, one day, our heart was orphaned. And now we have to live on our own wits. Somehow, we have to make it through. We have to take care of ourselves, because it’s not likely someone else will.
And yet, we all want rescued. We dream secret of the Matthew Cuthberts and Prince Charmings and rich relatives who will find us and save us from our misery, from being utterly alone. Whether the horror was thrust upon us or we left of our own accord, something deep inside aches to be restored to the relationship we long for and have not tasted.
Our inconsolable secret, that odd inability to be truly happy when we should, to be deeply sad when we ought, the paradoxical dullness that always steals our joy. This is the orphan heart.
But what would happen if we really were rescued? What if Someone adopted us? What if we were given the home for our heart, the dream (if only even a taste) of goodness we desire? What if we could finally feel the pain of desire without despair, because we knew there was truly something good and worth the longing? What if we could detect the joy tremours, and find ourselves overwhelmed with happiness?
Would we accept it? Would we live like we are loved?
Well, it would mean giving up our orphan identity, wouldn’t it? We must become someone new, someone different, something we’ve never been before. And we don’t know how to play this role. We don’t know how to be loved and taken care of. Imagining it hasn’t made us ready for reality.
But it is real. Someone has paid for our adoption, invited us into the holy love of God. For those who know this love, but struggle to live in its wonder, what can you do? And for those who have never tasted, what can you do?
It’s small, it’s humble. It’s not glamourous or heroic or stuff for movies. But it’s where we begin to live, and in living, we show what we believe. It starts, when we say Thank You to our Maker. It’s that simple. And that hard.
Photos courtesy of google images