“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27, ESV)
I stood in the middle of the nursery as small children clamored around me. In the corner, soft spongy mats were filled with babies too small or crippled to join the excited menagerie. What on earth was I doing here? I felt completely lost and wanted to turn and run.
When my teenage daughter returned from a short-term mission’s trip to Mexico, her heart had been forever changed and she begged me to go back with her. A year later life finally released us and here we were. She scooped up a two-year-old and wandered with her over to the window snuggling and loving on her. By now my stiffness caused the young ones to give up and go find a more agreeable volunteer. I was frozen, completely overwhelmed.
Lord, what on earth? These children are so broken, and needy. What can I do?
No sooner had I prayed that quick prayer and peace flooded over me. I went and sat down next to a child who was bent up and uncommunicative, lying in a heap on the floor. Slowly I placed my hands before her to see if she would respond. She grabbed one hand and began to play with my fingers right in front of her face. Ah, autism...this I understood, as I have a few friends with autistic children.
We sat for the next hour, her playing with my fingers from one hand while she allowed me to rub her arched back with the other. I prayed without ceasing with each stroke, interceding on her and the other children’s behalves.
This broken, sinful earth brings circumstances and pain that we can’t always understand, nor fix on this side of eternity. Often our natural desire is to turn a blind eye and run. But, our ‘religion’ or faith is made pure when we love those who can offer us nothing in return.
This verse doesn’t limit us to orphans and widows, the afflicted are all around us, let’s live today unrestrained from our world as we reach out and interact with them in theirs.