Ashley Mueller wrote a blog about how she feels sometimes.
“As long as I’ve remembered, I’ve always feared there will never be enough of anything for me. I feel like an orphan—scrappin’ and scrapin’ for mine. I’m no Oliver Twist, but I sure am acting like one…working the system to make sure I have enough.”
I’ve gotten to know Ashley this past year and I can relate to where she’s coming from. That’s why I eagerly read her blog. I love reading the stories of our staff and Racers. Some of you are so good at sharing the hard things in your life. And when you share them with us, it makes me realize that I’m not alone, that others struggle as I do.
I love that we start our Racers out telling stories through their blogs. I love that we force them to press into one another to create safe places and to give feedback. I love that we give them adventures that require them to go to new places in the world and in themselves.
I can relate to Ashley as I can relate to many of you. Her story looks a lot like mine. I’ve felt like an orphan and am still working hard to never live that way again.
Growing up in a loving family was one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. As a child, I never doubted that I was safe or that my basic needs would be met. I was free to grow and explore without ever having to battle fear or shame.
When I hit adolescence, everything changed. The world around me became a strange and unfriendly place. I began to regularly feel insecure about how small I was and a hundred different ways that I compared unfavorably to my peers. The halls and locker rooms at school became unsafe. I felt exposed and unprotected daily.
I spent too long trying to live up to someone else’s standard of performance. It was orphan-thinking. When I became free and realized that God loves me unconditionally and has an unlimited supply of good gifts to give me, I began to breathe the sweet air of freedom.
Now as a man looking back on that scary phase of life, I’m thankful for the experience. It helps me to understand from the inside out how orphans feel all the time. And it helps me understand how a lot of people who were not orphans, but who have an orphan spirit, feel.
Have you ever felt like Ashley and I have? Maybe you had two parents who raised you, but you grew up in an unsafe family and had to learn the lesson, “No one is going to take care of me in life, so I better take care of myself.”
A Generation Feels That Way
A third of all young people and two thirds of African-American children are being raised in a single-parent home. The same percentage is being born out of wedlock. See the study here.
How do they feel? What do they feel toward the parent who is not in the home? Studies point to a huge jump in negative behaviors, from dropping out of school to suicide.
But this feeling that young people have is much more widespread than that. Many young people may have both their parents, but still leave home with an orphan spirit. They don’t feel OK and they have a scarcity mentality, scrapping for everything they can get.
They believe that there isn’t enough food, opportunity and love to go around. Their conclusion is, “I need to fight for resources because if somebody else wins, that means I lose.”
People with orphan spirits look normal and are often high achievers, but there’s a hole in their heart and they hunger for acceptance. They’re plagued by orphan-like thoughts like, “Nobody loves me. I don’t really matter. I have to perform to get attention or love.”
People with an orphan spirit learn to not trust others. Unable to protect themselves as children, regularly exposed to pain, they make the inner vow, “I will never suffer like that again.” And so they go through life fighting the battles they lost in childhood over and over again.
Having an orphan spirit makes you doggedly self-sufficient and hard to love. When someone fails you, there is no grace. You push them away and cut them off. You think it’s better to not trust—I can’t risk getting hurt again.
God the Father Adopts Us
If you look inside and sense an inner orphan hiding in the shadows, what do you do? Most people do nothing. They assume that rejection and insecurity is normal and live life defensively.
The antidote to an orphan spirit is to see over and over again that your needs will in fact be met, and so begin to change the neural wiring in your brain.
The orphan’s expectation is that he’ll be hungry. His response is to grasp and grab. But lessons learned in childhood can be unlearned.
The good news is, no matter how our parents may have messed up, we have a Heavenly Father who loves us and wants to adopt us into His family. We may not feel as though we fit, but the reality is, God promises rescue. “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still,” He said to Moses when he was in dire straits. And He says the same thing to us.
The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still!
He loves you like a son or a daughter. He wants you back. He wants to adopt you into His family. But you’ve got to stop doing His work for Him. Stop fighting those old battles over and over again. Let go and embrace your sonship. The work has been done.
* * * *
Do you know someone who has an orphan spirit? Or do you sometimes feel that way yourself? Growing up in the midst of trauma is tough.
We need to cut one another a break as we seek to impart and embrace the grace that God gives to His children. Wouldn’t it be awesome to be a part of a tribe that loved each other that way?
It’s a dream worth fighting for. Thanks for joining me in the fight!