today i received my new copy of “things unseen” by mark buchanan. i used to have several copies but i’ve given them all away (i’m keeping this one for me!). of course, i immediately dived in (even though i’ve read it a couple of times) and found a familiar passage that messes me up every time i read it. badly.
buchanan writes of visiting his missionary brother in thailand. they went to an orphanage on the outskirts of bangkok and he describes the children’s reactions to their exotic visitors:
The children came to us, ran to us, clung to us. They were starved for touch and voice. They could not get close enough to us. We each carried around several children, while others hung on to our legs and arms. They pressed their faces, dusted with talc to cool their skin in the sweltering heat, into our skin and clothes, smelling our living bodies, some of them gathering a shirt-sleeve ot collar into their mouth and sucking it. They caressed our faces, plucked gently at the hair on our arms. They didn’t understand a single word we spoke, and yet they did–they understood the tenderness, the goodwill.
buchanan goes on to write about the crushing-yet-inevitable experience of peeling off the weeping children and they said their good-byes, about the looks of betrayal. he wrote of the silence in the car as they drove away and each person processed that experience in his/her own way. in sharing what he learned from the trip to the orphanage, mark buchanan gave me a precious gift that i cherish:
That experience spoke many things to me. But this is the one I wish to pass on: The longing for the Parent is so deep, so desperate, that deprived of Him, any stranger will do.
These children haunt me. Many years later, I still see their dark eyes, bright at our appearing, emptied and extinguished at our departure…I can feel the tight brace of their hands on my arm, the tugging of their arms around my neck, the winching coil of their legs around my waist.
For one hour, I was the father they never knew. For one glorious, tragic hour, I entered their life, they entered mine, and the world was as it ought to be. For one hour, I felt, I think, what God feels.
i’m sure there are as many meanings as there are perspectives in this story. one line in particular really grabbed me, and i believe it is a prophetic commentary on this generation. when buchanan writes, “The longing for the Parent is so deep, so desperate, that deprived of Him, any stranger will do,” he describes the relational merry-go-round that has wreaked havoc in so many lives. we have seen the advent of a fatherless generation and we are suffering the consequences. people, especially young people (would it be politically incorrect of me to say “especially young females“?), are angry and desperate because daddy is absent (and some daddies are absent even though they live in the house). as buchanan describes, they give in to their congenital urges to create a father figure wherever they can. thus, a damaged, dysfunctional generation.
to those who know the creator god, the challenge is set before us. our father seeks to make himself known and to meet the needs of the fatherless, and the medium he has chosen to use is his children.
and to those who long for a father, be encouraged. the father longs for you.