“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27
In Part One & Two of this post, I explored this go-to verse in the adoption & foster care movement within the church. I’ve often used it personally as a tool for inspiring people to take action on behalf of orphans and at-risk children. It’s an amazing verse of scripture yet somehow we’ve missed the instructions in verses 1 – 26 of James 1 which lay out some expectations in our journey to care for the orphan and the widow and keep ourselves pure.
Listen Well. Speak Slowly. Be Cautious In Anger.
One of the most applicable verses to me as an adoptive mom is in James 1:19 & 20, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” If I’m truly honest, when I’m facing a difficult time with one of my children (adopted or not) I tend to view the difficulty through a lens of selfishness. Most of the time I’m thinking about how their action has cost me time, money, resources or reputation. This type of anger and frustration never leads to healing – only to separation and condemnation.
We must listen well to our children. Just this morning I opened my Bible app on my phone and the verse of the day was Psalm 116:1 which says, “I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!” <– did you catch that? The Lord of the heavens and the earth bends down to listen when we speak! We must slow down and listen well to our children. I have to be honest, this is an area that I struggle. My children are smart enough and old enough now to call me on my “hmmmm….. ok……. yeah…….” answers that are clear indications that my mind is elsewhere and not properly engaged with what they are saying. I’m learning to put down the electronics, give eye contact and really listen well to my kids – even when I have something else that I’m attending to. I’ll never get these moments back and the time I invest in the “meaningless” conversations opens the door to the meaningful ones that are around the corner.
We must speak slowly. Oh boy. Is that really in the bible? Surely the translator got this one wrong. If you know me, you know I like to talk. As a mom I especially like to give advice, opinions, wisdom and guidance. Those are good things right? Not all the time. There are many times that my girls just simply want me to listen, these are the times that a soft, “Okay.” “Yeah.” and concerned “Hmmmm….” are welcomed. Too many times as parents we get into the rut of lecture. I’m the queen of lecture. For real, my children have nicknamed me that. But, often in my lectures those things that I’m meaning to be helpful, my children are receiving as hurtful. Instead of my message coming across as “let me share something that might help you.” it comes across as “you’re incompetent to handle this so let me tell you what to do.” I’m learning to speak slowly and let them lead the conversation; using my words to guide them to discovering the answer on their own, rather than me telling them what I think will solve the issue. I’m still learning how to step off my pulpit and sit down beside them to put my arm around them and join their team. It’s still a work in progress, but thank God He’s still guiding me and showing me wisdom.
We must be cautious in anger. My husband is a champ at this, his patience astounds me. Which is probably why God gave him to me. Goodness knows whoever has to live with me needs truckloads of patience. He just has a way about him that allows him to slow down when he gets angry and think through his response (unless he’s being lied to – but that’s a topic for another post). I don’t have that gift. I find myself having a hair-trigger response to misbehavior. I don’t know if you’ve ever been there, but I’ve often felt like I was having an out of body experience as I heard myself angrily say things like, “That’s It! You’re grounded for 2 years!” “Oh yeah? Well, go to your room and don’t come out until next week!” Obviously, those are extreme exaggerations, but I’ve often issued angry consequences that I’ve known were ridiculous even as they are coming out of my mouth. James gives us this instruction for that very reason, often in our anger we can say and do things that cause damage to our relationships with others. We must not be quick to wrath, punishment and consequence.
So, as we’ve walked through some key parts of James Chapter 1, we can see that long before James ends the chapter with that inspiring verse to minister to widows and orphans, he sets us up with 26 verses of preparation for success. It’s not easy, but every single second of it is worth it. Enjoy your journey.