When I was a kindergartener, I toyed around briefly – and somewhat seriously – with the possibility that my parents were not really my parents, but actually aliens. Or robots. I had the sneaking suspicion that one day I would be going about my normal 4-year-old business, and I would see my mom or dad malfunction at last. Perhaps I would see sparks fly from my father’s elbow joint, or maybe my mother’s head would pop clean off and I would see the wires and gears that made her tick.
I’m still not sure why these thoughts ever crossed my mind. Chalk it up to an overactive imagination, if you will. Or to too much sugar. After all, it’s not as though I had any desire for other parents. I just thought mine might be imposters.
And yet I can’t help but wonder why.
Why would I even entertain the thought that I was being raised by robot surrogates? And I wonder why, as children, our hearts thrill to fairy tales, to the possibility that just around the corner is something else, something more wonderful and yet more real than anything we’ve yet seen with our young eyes. And then I remember those stories where a young orphan, mistreated and malnourished, is welcomed into a palace, given good things to eat and beautiful clothes to wear, and is proclaimed a prince or a princess. Why do we love these stories, even when we’ve never been orphans ourselves?
And then I think of Paul, who was always finding new ways to describe the gospel of grace, and yet found himself saying essentially the same thing to all the churches of the Mediterranean. To the church in Rome he wrote, “You did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons and daughters, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs…”
It’s the same old story, and it’s good news indeed. Christianity is not a social club requiring a moral pedigree or the right connections. It’s a palace full of orphans who have finally been called home. And Paul offers up the startling news – this time to the Ephesians – that this palace full of orphans has been in the works “before the foundation of the world.” It’s no wonder that we yearn for communion with the Almighty. From before the dawn of time, he has been planning to bring us in, and our souls know this in a way that is deeper than deep. It’s no wonder that “our hearts are restless until they rest in” Him. It’s no wonder that we want to go home.
This, then, is the reason why I sort of hoped my parents were robots, and why we love those fairy tales where the weak and poor child is brought in out of the cold. These are not just cute stories; they are shattered reflections and glimpses of the way the universe actually works. At the rock bottom of everything, we are all of us orphans, dirty and malnourished, longing to be fed, and to be called sons and daughters of the King. And, good King and great Father that he is, God does not just welcome us in. He is out in the streets, chasing down his orphans, wrapping them in his arms, and bringing them home.
And thank Christ for that.