From years and years now of conversation and counseling and from my own experience as a son and a parent, I am convinced that very few of us live with any active regret about material things our parents could not or would not provide for us.
Hardly anyone grieves the fact that her parents sent her to kindergarten in clothes from Sears and Wal-Mart instead of in designer duds, or that her family vacations were to Myrtle Beach instead of Maui, or that his parents could only afford for him to drive, when he turned 16, a secondhand, scratched and dented Toyota instead of a new sports car.
I can’t remember handing the Kleenex box to an adult who, looking back on his childhood, was in pain over a stereo he didn’t get, or, remembering her relationship with her father, regretted that he could only afford to send her to a state school.
But, rivers of tears have flowed over games of catch that never happened, stories that never got read, walks in the woods that didn’t get taken, and questions that never even got asked much less answered. I know adults who feel that their parents never saw them clearly—never saw their talents, their dreams, their possibilities, their needs, and their problems—because those parents always saw them through eyes weakened by fatigue, blurred by hurry, dimmed by trouble, blinded by fear, or swollen by envy.
And, since their parents never saw them clearly, they never felt valued and cherished for themselves. In other words, I know plenty of emotional orphans: people who are convinced that any love they receive will soon be taken away from them, who are determined to “go it alone” and “do it themselves” because they have felt on their own for so very long, and who live with a low grade fear that makes them vulnerable to infection by the manipulations of those who seem to offer them safety and affirmation.
Jesus said to his friends on the night before his death: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. My Father and I will make our home with those who love me.” It is a promise, which, if we can remember and trust it, assures us that we have been adopted into the family of God, where we are seen, known, and loved for who we truly are. We don’t have to be orphans.