Friday, February 6, 2009

The Heart of an Orphan- Part 2

When I first began working among orphans I was surprised at how different it was from what I expected. The media of the 80's had made me think that all African children had large bellies, suffered badly from malnourishment, and were for the most part quite miserable. Yet when I came to East Africa, I found quite the opposite. Though you can find destitute situations of impoverishment, most of the orphans I was around in the countries of Zambia, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda were incredibly happy children. I was stunned at how children who had known such tragedy could yet have such joy in life. Yet even in this I was quite deceived.

It was only after living among orphans here in Uganda that my eyes were opened up to the reality of the destitute state that many orphans carry around in their hearts. For many, the joyful external is a mask of the deeper pain of the heart, and for others, the joy is only momentary, giving way to a gloom that reveals the isolation of the heart. It was Paul Kusuubira who put flesh on this for me in his description of the heart of an orphan, drawn from his own experience and journey to healing in the Gospel.

I'm going to post half of his description in this post and half in the next. Let me add though, the orphan heart or the orphan "spirit" is simply a description of the human heart that we are all born with but which is drawn out in the specific context that orphans face. You will find many of these descriptions in the Apostle Paul's descriptions of the flesh throughout the New Testament revealing the connection to the sinful human heart, and if you have eyes to see you might see these same things at work in your own heart and life regardless of whether you are a physical or spiritual orphan. These are also helpful to understand why many fatherless children act or respond as they do to your attempts to love them or move into a heart relationship with them. I'd love some feedback here, so please feel free to interact.

ABANDONMENT: The deep feeling of having no one to turn to for answers or help. One has to make his own way because those who would help are not there. Even when people are there, they cannot be trusted because they will probably leave, too.

LONELINESS: The loss of identity in family leaves the feeling of being out of place and isolated, even when surrounded by people. The preference is to be alone in a self made “cocoon” rather than to be involved with people. The feeling of loneliness is often both hated and enjoyed. It is hated because the heart longs to be free to relate and enjoy relationships, but is enjoyed when it is able to gain sympathy from people without the tie of strong relationship. Self-protection is at the heart of this.

REJECTION: The feeling of being unwanted by people. One feels like a misfortune whose presence is a burden for those around you. The thought is, “Why should I even exist if I’m an inconvenience to others?”

HOPELESSNESS: Because the present is so unstable, one cannot even imagine what the future will hold. There are no dreams. Life becomes a puzzle of trying to put pieces together again to make sense out of life. One just exists with no sense of purpose or meaning.

WORTHLESSNESS: A conviction that says I am of no value. If a person comes who seeks to bring value to you or to appreciate you, it is denied and the person rejected.

LOSS OF IDENTITY: Tied into worthlessness. In the African culture people are identified by their fathers. Children are a priority because a man’s name and identity is continued in them. To die without children is to “perish”. On the other side, to lose a father is to lose the one where that identity is found. “Who is his Dad?” is asked of every child. If the father has died the reply is, “He’s just an orphan.” A result of this loss of identity is that one cannot identity himself with anyone (especially male figures who can easily betray). One can not lift his or her head- it stays “down” because the father, the source of identity, has died.

SADNESS: Tied into loneliness and the outflow of the hurt in the heart. Happiness can come for a moment, but it always gives way to the feeling of sadness. Even in the midst of a conversation, one's entire demeanour can suddenly change as the heart reconnects with its deep sadness. It is unexplainable by the person feeling sad, but it is the fruit of pain. It can also be a tool to keep people around to bring comfort, but without the commitment of relationship.

MISTRUST: It is hard to believe and trust what people say and do. Because one is alone, without value, and abandoned, one can have no confidence that people are truly there to help or that they are not trying to use him or her for their own benefit. The heart will ride out the relationship to the point of what one can get, but it is always ready to leave as soon as there is reason to suspect any kind of rejection. The heart is careful to select who it will allow to enter into its sphere. It operates in comfort zones.

HIDING: This is both physical and emotional whereby one does not really want to talk about real things, but it is free to talk about things surrounding the real issue, careful to make sure no access is given to the real issue. Authority figures are suspect and kept away because of the fear of experiencing the pain they might cause. Any correction means rejection and the heart retreats away from the corrector. Accountability is very difficult to accept, as the true problem is never dealt with, only surface problems.

SUPERFICIALITY: Tied into hiding, it becomes the guard of all relationships. One can never know the true heart as it is guarded and protected. Relationship is kept at a distance for fear that the true heart will be revealed. When the heart is pursued intentionally, the person will end it all together.

MANIPULATION: Using the situation one is in to convince people to give you what you want. Emotions, sadness, loneliness, all are used for the advantage of the suffering one. Life is a drama where acting becomes the key to gain.

DECEIT: Constant lies are told to make sure that the heart remains safe and protected. Truth will hurt and pain is to be avoided at all costs. The memory becomes selective and only exposes what will provide safety in the situation.

FEAR: This defines life. Anything that has the potential of causing pain or the memory of pain is to be fearfully avoided. Fear of what “could be” or “could happen” is always on the mind. It pushes the heart to pursue safety at all costs. Obedience does not flow out of what is good for me or out of love for the person asking, but because of the fear of what could happen if I fail to obey.


Anonymous said...

Beef, I am so amazed how you have captured the brokenness that the heart endures when there is not that relationship-accepting relationship with the father. Even here in the US you see so many children who have grown up without fathers. I feel like the big push is to make sure children have education and material needs. Dont smoke, dont do drugs, stay in school. Not much attention is given to address many of these heart issues. I have seen the outward grossness that you described but now I have a much better understanding of the internal workings and processes of coping that cause the outward brokeness. I am excited that you and Laura are a part of God's healing of the Orphans' hearts.

Kate said...

Nice blog! I am currently raising money to build a primary school in Apac, Uganda- deffinetly an area of need. Keep up the good work!