|Families for the Lonely
May 17, 2001
"Father to the fatherless, defender of widows --
this is God, whose dwelling is holy.
God places the lonely in families..." (Psalm 68:5-6)
Last week, a very sad thing happened here in Chicago.
A house was sold at public auction, a casualty of a tax foreclosure. Now, you have to know that property sold at public auction in Cook County is not inspected before the sale. Prospective buyers are only allowed to examine the exterior of a building. So when the new owner entered the home last Tuesday, it was the first time he had been inside the building that he now owned.
So he was shocked to discover, sitting upright in a chair, the dead body of a man who had apparently lived there previously. It isn't clear why he died. It isn't known why no one discovered him before now. And he hadn't even been identified as of last week. There is an idea of how long this man had been dead, however -- not from an autopsy, but from a newspaper found near the body.
A newspaper from 1997.
That's right, the man may very well have been dead for four years.
Four years. Let's break it down. That's four birthdays. Four Christmases. Four Father's Days. That's four years that a child hasn't heard from a father, a parent hasn't heard from a son, or a friend hasn't spoken to a friend. Perhaps -- perish the thought -- but perhaps that's four years that a church hasn't heard from one of its members. What happened? Was there no child, no father, no parents? Maybe. Was there no church? Oh, I pray not. Were there no friends? None? No acquaintances, even? Drinking companions? Poker buddies? People from work, or from the VFW? Were there no neighbors who wondered what happened to "that guy who used to live there", or who wondered enough to knock on a door or call the police?
David's experience of God, at least sometimes, was that he is a God who is a Father to the fatherless. He's a God who cares for widows who have no one else to care for them. He's a God who "places the lonely in families". He gives those who are alone companionship. He graces the friendless with friends. He tears down the walls of isolation. He remembers those everyone else forgets, and gives them people to remember them, too. So here's my question: why did God fail this Chicago man who died all alone and forgotten in his house? Why does he forget so many others like him?
Abandoned children. Lonely single mothers. Men and women torn from spouses they love by death or divorce. Teenagers who don't fit in. On and on the list goes. Oh, some do fine. But some, many, never seem to find people to care about them, listen to them, just be with them. They're lonely, isolated, and often forgotten. Why would the God who places the lonely in families forget people like that?
And hard the heels of that question comes the stunning, knock-the-wind-out-of-me realization that it isn't God who has failed. It's us. It's me. People are alone because we allow them to be. We rush through life insensitive to or unaware of the loneliness so many around us feel. What we write off as social maladjustment in some people may well be a defense mechanism carefully designed to prevent the sting of one more person's contempt, ridicule, or disregard.
We've failed the lonely. Hard as it is to admit it, I've failed. God places the lonely in FAMILIES. He uses people to relieve the pain of loneliness and islolation. He uses people like me. Like you. Through adoption, he places the lonely in families. When a church surounds a hurting person and loves her, God places the lonely in a family. When we befriend an outcast, mentor a troubled teenager, or visit an old man in a nursing home, there's one more lonely person that God has blessed with family.
Of course, it's easier to write off the lonely. "Good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well," we say. (James 2:16) "Faith is dead without good deeds," James says. That's right. As dead as a four-year-old body in an empty house. Faith can't survive without good deeds because it's through those good deeds that God makes his presence known to the world. That's the gospel, isn't it? The good news that God came to us. He came near. He let us hear his voice, see his face, feel his touch. He let us be covered with his blood. He didn't leave us alone.
And now he wants to use us to make the same impact on others. To place the lonely in families. Will you? Will you reach out intentionally to someone who's forgotten and alone in your neighborhood, your church, your school? Will you show her that God knows her and loves her?
Will you be her family? *********************************************
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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
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