I am reading Sealed Orders, an autobiography by the Christian mystic and healer, Agnes Sanford. Sanford was an amazing woman of God—writer, speaker, healer, founder of a school of healing—who struggled for years with depression.
She writes, “The basic trouble was that I had forgotten whence I came, and I did not know the sealed orders with which I had been sent to this earth.”
Have you ever thought about the “sealed orders” God sent with you as you burst into this world from your mother's womb? Orders written by God—God’s detailed plans for your life?
Many of us struggle for years to find our purpose in life, getting sidelined along the way with roles that we allow others to put on us. Sanford set aside her creative gifts for years, believing that she was supposed to fill a cultural expectation as perfect pastor’s wife, mother, cook, and chief bottle washer. Depression set in, and it was the simple healing prayer of an Episcopal priest—and his instructions to spend every morning in writing—that unleashed her creative powers. You see, God’s plans for Sanford’s life included not only the roles of wife and mother, but the roles of a writer and an evangelist for God’s healing power!
This book has set me thinking about sealed orders. Not only mine (which I’m still discerning at the age of 60-plus!) but my son, Joel’s. Joel is 31 years old, and he has autism.
Joel was created for God’s purposes. No, I don’t think autism was part of God’s plan (some might disagree with me, and that’s fine, theology not being something you can fit in a box!), but I also know that God’s plans cannot be thwarted. You can read it right here in Isaiah:
“I don’t think the way you think.
The way you work isn’t the way I work.”
“For as the sky soars high above earth,
so the way I work surpasses the way you work,
and the way I think is beyond the way you think.
Just as rain and snow descend from the skies
and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth,
Doing their work of making things grow and blossom,
producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry,
So will the words that come out of my mouth
not come back empty-handed.
They’ll do the work I sent them to do,
they’ll complete the assignment I gave them. (Isaiah 55:11 (The Message)
My life is a word sent out by the Lord. Joel’s life was spoken by God before Joel was born. Your life was spoken by the Lord. God spoke your child’s life even before he or she was formed in your womb. (Psalm 139:13-16 NIV) G0d says: My words will not come back empty-handed. They’ll complete the assignment I gave them.
What are Joel’s sealed orders, I ask myself. What is the assignment given him by God?
- To teach his world how to worship (The Shepherd's Story)
- To teach unconditional love (Autism & Alleluias)
- To teach perseverance through suffering (His Name is Joel: Searching for God in a Son's Disability)
- To teach his church family the power of prayer, and to be a conduit of that power
- To teach patience
- To teach his too-serious mom to lighten up
- The list goes on, but in these few sentences it's obvious that Joel is a teacher!
He can’t read or write. He rarely talks. He still struggles with behavioral issues at times. But there is no doubt that God has gifted him as a teacher.
Thank you, Lord, for Joel’s sealed orders to teach the world how to worship and how to love. I ask, Lord, that you will help me stay out of the way as a protective mom, and let you do your work through him, unimpeded.
Questions for Reflection:
What are your sealed orders? Take some time today to pray and ask God to reveal to you, if He hasn’t already, what your purpose is here on earth.
What might be the sealed orders with which the Lord God sent your child to earth? If your child is able, have a conversation with him/her about this. If he/she is not able to talk, brainstorm in prayer with your spouse or with a friend, believing that there is purpose for his/her life beyond what you can even begin to imagine! And then, step out of the way and let that purpose unfold in God's timing!