No Longer An Orphan: How I Discovered The Father’s Love

Fathers Day (Australia & New Zealand) Sunday 5th September 2010

My crisis of burnout in early 2009 could be summed up in this question that I asked at that time:

‘Are You the God I am afraid that You are—a task-master whose approval I can never win? Or the Father I have longed for—a God of grace and joy?’

‘Are You the God I am afraid You are—or the God I want You to be?’

How can it be that a Christian of 33 years could have such a crisis of faith?

The Orphan Spirit

‘I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.’ John 14:18

As Christians, we are beloved children—sons and daughters—of a loving Father. And yet for many of us, this truth is negated by a deep-rooted belief that we need to prove our worth in order to be loved.

We are born again as sons and daughters, a relationship so valued by God that Jesus paid the price of His life-blood for it, and yet many of us live as spiritual orphans. Why?

I first came across teaching about the ‘orphan spirit’ by Jack Frost in 2002 [1]. I read his articles with interest and agreement, little knowing that at least one statement would prove prophetic:

‘Often within the church it is difficult to tell whether a person walks in the heart attitude of an orphan or a son (this includes daughters).  Outwardly, a person may have a pattern of service, sacrifice,discipline, and apparent loyalty,but you do not know what is inside a person until he or she gets bumped. Then the attitude of the heart overflows at a time when they feel they are not getting the recognition or favor they deserve.’ Jack Frost [1]

My loving Father arranged for the year 2008 to be the year I was ‘bumped.’ Due to transition in the ministry I served in, I had 5 responsibilities, and could do none of them well. It seemed that no matter how hard I worked, the approval I craved was withheld.

I emerged in 2009 free of all but one of the ministry roles, but burnt out and exhausted. It was in the ensuing crisis of faith that I asked the question, ‘Are You the God I am afraid You are—or the God I want You to be?’

Discovering the Father’s Heart.

It was in this year of brokenness, devoid of the ability to achieve, that I discovered the grace of my Heavenly Father.

This was chiefly expressed through my husband, who bravely bore the burden of providing for our household, giving me as much time as I needed to recover.

I also discovered grace through friends who encouraged me to find and express my own voice, resulting in this blog.

I discovered grace through the presence and patience of my pastors and church family.

I discovered grace through reconnecting with the Father and allowing Him to peel back the layers of my need to perform, replacing them with His love.

Living as Sons and Daughters

“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matt 3:17

Two weeks ago I listened as Leif Hetland [3] taught on ‘The Orphan Spirit.’ An orphan, he said,

  • Sees God as a master
  • Lives by love of the law
  • Is always insecure
  • Needs to be noticed
  • Is one for whom discipline is a duty

Whereas a son and daughter:

  • Sees God as a loving Father
  • Lives by the law of love
  • Has security, rest, peace
  • Has total acceptance
  • Is one for whom discipline is a delight

He went on to share five truths associated with this—the revelation of belonging, of being wanted and valued, of favour, of being seen and watched over by God, and of being approved.

It was a great message, and when Leif gave the call for those who needed to respond to stand, I actually stayed seated—a testimony to the work God has done in my life over the past year.

Kingdom Citizenship

Leif then asked the worship leader, Steve Swanson, to sing a song of the Father’s love over us. As I opened my heart to God in that tender moment, I had a vision:

‘I was looking at a secured metal briefcase. It immediately reminded me of the movie ‘The Bourne Identity,’ when Jason Bourne went into the secure bank deposit and came away with a briefcase that contained passports, weapons and a wealth of money.

Down the right-hand side of the briefcase was a combination lock. It was very long—a set of numbers that would be impossible to remember. At the moment I noticed it, the Father said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ve got this covered.’ He opened the case.

To my surprise, the case contained no wealth—in fact, it was relatively empty.

All it contained was a single passport.

I knew that it was a Kingdom passport, and that it was mine because I was a daughter of the King. The front cover was embossed with a large crown, along with the face of a lion. ‘The Lion of the Tribe of Judah.’

God in His grace chose a revelation that had personal meaning to me. You see, my family and I are not citizens of the country we are now living in. This has been an ongoing source of frustration to us, as there are rights and privileges we do not have access to here in Australia.

Now, He was showing me that I am a citizen of His Kingdom, belonging to His Tribe, fully qualified, with all the rights and privileges attached to being a daughter of His Kingdom. There are no places in His will I cannot go to—every door my Father opens I can pass through.

I did not realise that there was a wound attached to my citizenship status until God chose at that moment to reveal and heal it.

But better than that—the truth of sonship has, once and for all, dropped from my head to my heart. I no longer need to live as a spiritual orphan. I am a daughter of the King.

And the answer to my question?

‘I am the God you want Me to be. I am the Father you have longed for—the God of grace and joy.’

If this article has spoken to you, you may be interested in the following resources that I have referred to:

[1] I recommend Jack Frost’s book, “From Spiritual Slavery to Spiritual Sonship”

[2] Leif Hetland also has a number of resources available on this topic

Related Posts:

For a prayer to help you break free from an orphan mindset, read the first of the following posts:

Breaking Free From An Orphan Mindset

4 Symptoms of the Orphan Spirit in Church Life

1 Father, 2 Sons, 3 Positions: Which Describes You?

© Enliven Publishing 2010 Helen Calder

23 thoughts on “No Longer An Orphan: How I Discovered The Father’s Love”

  1. Darling, I have journeyed this with you and have seen you live this amazing truth. I love you and do so appreciate your walk with God and, your life journey with me!!

  2. Thank you for sharing the journey with me and for being such an amazing expression of the heart of God, to me and our children 🙂 Love doing life with you and Happy Fathers Day!

  3. Thanks for posting this. You have no idea how much I identify with the orphaned mindset still, despite having gone through extensive healing already. Even the part about the visa/citizenship is so relevant to me.

    For me, the most powerful resource to counter the orphan spirit is the story of the Lost (Prodigal) Son. I’ve read it countless times in different versions of the Bible; seen it performed and portrayed in various media; participated in a young adults’ workshop based on it; and yet I can’t get enough of it.

    Apart from the Bible text itself, Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son is my favourite book on the topic.

    Thanks again!

    And Happy Father’s Day, Malcolm :o)

    1. Hi Sharon, yes it is an ongoing process, isn’t it? I’ve come a long way but know I will still have things to work through (kind of like weeding a garden) The important thing is to be on the journey, as you and I are. You have the Father’s favour and blessing, Sharon!

      You are so right, I was thinking a lot about the Prodigal Son story as I was preparing this post. At times I have identified with both sons, the one who squandered his inheritance and ended up serving an ungodly master. And also the son who lived as a servant – had access to the inheritance but never entered into it.

      Found the Henri Nouwen book here:
      Interesting note on this page ‘Identifying with each of the three main figures… Nouwen crafts a fresh interpretation of a classic story, concluding: “Though I am both the younger son and the elder son, I am not to remain them, but called to become the Father.”‘

  4. I don’t have a copy of the book on hand but I did find it very novel the way Nouwen drew parallels not only between himself and each if the characters, but between Jesus and each of the characters. I can’t remember the exact words, but this was how he put it:

    Like the younger son, Jesus also left home for a “far country” and disconnected from His Father — but unlike the younger son, He did it out of love and purpose.

    Like the elder son, Jesus is constantly “about His Father’s work” — but without the resentful attitude that our fleshly nature often inspires.

    And like His Father, Jesus is always on the lookout for the return of His lost ones, and ready to welcome them home.

  5. Wow! Helen, I had no idea of difficult year you endured. But that’s it isn’t it? You DID endure and so much stuff to now write about!

    1. Hi Rob and thanks! Yes sometimes there is a lot more going on than meets the eye, isn’t there 🙂 And how good is it that even our darkest times contain amazing treasure when we allow God to guide us through them.

      Isa 45:3
      I will give you the treasures of darkness,
      riches stored in secret places,
      so that you may know that I am the LORD,
      the God of Israel, who summons you by name.

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