Wednesday, September 21, 2011

You are Not Forgotten

Mountain View - Stealing Your Breath with Views of the Heart of God

       On a mission trip to a Russian orphanage, I met a 17 year-old "orphan" named Roma Kholodkov. His father, an alcoholic, had passed away prematurely. His mother abandoned him at a young age with no word of explanation or even a “goodbye”. In Russian culture, parentless children are often discarded by society, viewed as second-class citizens, and automatically labeled as being mentally “slow” just by virtue of the fact that they are orphans. 

        Roma and I developed a close relationship. A Russian interpreter shared, “You and Roma are kindred spirits."

        On the last day of our trip, Roma walked with me to our bus. Before boarding, he lowered his head and said four simple words that broke over me with the force of a hurricane.  “Do not forget me.”

Each day I am reminded that there are a whole lot of people who suffer in the dark shadows of the world – the homeless man under the bridge, the exhausted single mother who feels completely alone, the orphans of Africa who have become “parents” to younger siblings, the unemployed father who feels like a failure, the battered woman in the house down the street, the young girls suffering the horrors of sexual slavery, the mother ripped in two by the death of her child, the couple who has been defrauded by a trusted friend, the spouse facing the crushing truth of betrayal, the mother in poverty helplessly watching her child slip further into the grip of starvation, the wealthy man struggling with the emptiness of his life, the captives held in the unrelenting claw of addiction, the man in prison drowning in guilt, and the ones ruined by unmerciful disease. Many of these people feel as though they’ve been completely forgotten. Their cries seem to go unheard and their pain is not noticed. You may know these feelings in your present situation right now. I know I have felt them in my life at times too.

          My adolescent years were filled with turmoil as my parents divorced and my mom had a nervous breakdown. Subsequent years held three additional marriages (before I was 18), a stepdad who had addictions to alcohol and gambling, another who physically abused my mother and acted on an unnatural attraction for me, a parental "kidnapping" incident, a child custody battle, and suicide attempts by my mother. After my mother's death in 2008, it was confirmed that she suffered from borderline personality disorder (something that had been suggested by many in her later years). 

       No one in our family ever talked to my brothers and I about the things that had happened in our family. No one ever asked how we felt or how we were dealing with the circumstances in our lives. (I don't fault them for this. I'm just stating facts.) As a result, I can remember feeling very alone. However, one summer my mother did a very good thing. She started taking us to church and forced me to attend youth group. There was a moment at a youth retreat when I experienced God’s presence around me in a very real way. Not sure how I knew it was God – but I knew. He made it very clear to me that he had seen everything that had been happening in my life. I felt his overwhelming sadness and compassion as he let me know that he cared about me and the pain I was suffering. This knowledge changed my life. I literally melted into his "embrace" and have been walking in that embrace ever since.

Friends, this is something I want you to plant way down deep in your soul:

God forgets no one. He sees what is happening in our lives, is aware of our individual needs, and is distressed over our personal pain. We see evidence of this awareness and concern in many passages of scripture. One of those places is in the book of Exodus.

        The Israelites had endured 400 years of oppression, hard labor, and persecution at the hands of the Egyptians and they pleaded with God to help them.

“The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God.” Exodus 2:23

       What was His response? Did He ignore them? Did He have better things to do? Had He forgotten them?

“The Lord said, I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.” Exodus 3:7    

       God sees. He hears. His heart is moved with concern. In later passages, we also see him take action.

       When I left Russia, I left with the commitment to stay in touch with Roma and to communicate the message to him that he matters and neither God nor I would ever forget him. No matter what you’re going through today – no matter how insignificant this world has made you feel, I want you to know that the same is true for you. God cares about you deeply. He has not forgotten you! 

 With great confidence in the character of God,