“You don’t belong here,” Is a sentence that I have become so very accustomed to hearing. It was spoken to me as a young boy, though I don’t remember ever hearing it audibly, it was coldly whispered to my heart at key times throughout my childhood, as a teenager, and into adulthood. I call it the voice of the orphan spirit now, but when it spoke to me I just thought it was me realizing what was true–that I just didn’t belong.
When I was maybe 8-10 years old, we were visiting my step-dads parents, and my step-cousin was there. I always enjoyed playing with him, but this time it didn’t go so well. He had been taking Karate lessons, and wanted to show me what he’d learned. He positioned himself into some sort of stance, and I didn’t see this going well for me so I did the only thing I could think of to stop the attack…I kicked him in the balls. The next thing I knew his grandmother was shaking me and pulling me into the house and saying to my mom and step-dad “somebody needs to spank this boy!” I didn’t know what I’d done wrong, but the whisper was there “your presence here is not welcome.”
I had so much fun wrestling with my best friend’s dad when I would spend the night there. He had to convince me that it was OK to hit him harder, or to tackle him; it was all new to me and I didn’t know the rules. The times over at his house–staying up late watching scary movies with his dad, watching wrestling, or actually wrestling–are some of my most fond memories. However, after I would leave, the voice would whisper “you don’t have that, you will never have that, something is wrong with you, and you’re alone.”
This would go on in the summer visits at my dad’s house too. I loved playing baseball there, but still, the voice made sure I knew that I was an outsider on the team, and an outsider at his house. The step-siblings seemed to be so much more at home with my dad than I was, and I just chocked it up to the whisper being right “there is something wrong with you; you don’t belong here either.” I was in trouble for something, and my step-mom got in my face and angrily made me say “yes ma’am” instead of the angry “yes” that I had offered. I was pissed, but the voice was loud “you don’t even know good manners.” Then there was the time she asked me “why do you even come here?’ The whisper came “they want your sister here, but not you.”
I went to kindergarten in Cave City, Arkansas, and it was kind of hub for us. We would move away for a while, and then come back. I counted seven different school changes up until the seventh grade when we landed back in Cave City to stay. Every new school had new rules, new people, and already formed groups of friends. Even when we returned to stay in Cave City, I was nowhere near the level of comfort I’d had with these very same kids seven years earlier. By this time, with all the school changes, I’d never felt more isolated; I was alone no matter who was around, and the voice of the orphan spirit was the only one I heard. It would whisper “You know you don’t belong here, but you better act like you do, or they’ll know you’re scared.” I knew I couldn’t handle being made fun of, so I (the real me) stayed hidden.
Somewhere around the ninth or tenth grade I discovered pot and beer, and while I thought they were REALLY great discoveries, they lead me to many more encounters with the orphan spirit. I was told that our school principal thought I was a drug dealer because I was tall and didn’t play basketball. I heard that our local police officer thought I was a drug dealer because I wore nice clothes. My friend told me that his mom had heard on the police scanner that they were watching me and waiting to catch me in something big. I think the drugs and alcohol were a source of relief, and gave me some kind of identity, but I was definitely not a drug dealer. It didn’t matter though, the orphan spirit whispered “See, everything you do is bad, you are bad, and they know it. People don’t even want their kids around you.” All I really wanted was to feel accepted. I wanted to have grown up with a mom and a dad in the same house, in one town, with the same friends. In my young mind, that seemed like the formula for a good life. I’m sure there was an out-of-reach formula you believed in too.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was really angry; it turned inward, and became depression. All I knew is what the orphan spirit told me–that I was alone, and didn’t fit in–and it was because I was inadequate. There have been many kind people in my story, and I want to acknowledge that; people who stood up for me along the way. But unfortunately the orphan spirit spoke much louder. The saddest part is that I joined the orphan spirit in my own abuse. I believed the whisper was correct, and I hated myself for being an orphan. I believed that I was defective, and unlovable. Every time that orphaned little boy would try to speak, I pushed him down. I was ashamed of him; he was the one who kept me from fitting in–from being like everyone else–he would always surface at the wrong time and blow my cover. I wouldn’t let him speak, or come out and play, and I kept him at bay with drugs and alcohol, until that nearly killed me. Then I ran from him with busyness, which was way more socially acceptable, and looked good.
In 2012 a beautiful thing happened. I had been going to church and various recovery groups (it was part of the busyness) but I had never really stopped running from the orphan. I learned of these men’s retreats after reading a book given to me by a therapist, The Sacred Romance. I followed that book with another by the same author, Wild at Heart. And it was this book that led me to the retreat in Colorado. There was a session called Healing the Wound, and toward the end of the session, after some amazing healing prayer, I looked around and men were in tears. I could just sense the huge breakthrough that was going on around me, but I had no idea what my “wound” was, and I felt… absolutely nothing. That’s great, I thought, once again I am left out. Then, something that was said at the beginning of the session came back to me, “sometimes Jesus will wound you where you are already wounded, to bring it up so he can heal it.” Wow!, it dawned on me for the first time that my wound is in feeling left out. It was delivered, and confirmed over and over by my enemy, the orphan spirit.
I was frozen, stuck to my seat as I sat there recalling every situation in which I had ever heard the whisper. I had felt left out in nearly every stage of my life–at school, at my dad’s house, in church, recovery groups–part of me was still outside looking in. I couldn’t move from my seat. Then John (the man leading the session) said “some of you may need to stay after the session and let our intercessor’s pray over you.” I couldn’t really move anyway, so I stayed. I didn’t know it at that time, but the intercessor’s didn’t really have time to hear your story in a way that was honoring, and it can actually get in the way of them hearing from God on your behalf. I wanted to tell them that my wound was that I was always left out (orphaned), but they stopped me before I could say anything; they just asked if they could put their hands on me and pray. I said sure, and they did. Then Bill (I got to know him later) had a message for me from God, he said I hope this doesn’t seem strange, but stand up and hug me. I did, and he said “The Father told me to tell you that you are his favorite son.” In that hug my heart melted, and it wasn’t just the words Bill spoke, I believe at that moment I received the Spirit of Sonship from God. I knew in an instant that I was no longer an orphan. It was beautiful, and even as I write this, I have tears. The Father wasn’t done though, He would come further for the orphan in an unexpected way, a few years later during a counseling course I would take in Seattle…