In a previous post, I wrote about my struggle with feelings of abandonment. There have been a number of occasions where I've felt like God hasn't "shown up." And while intellectually, I can talk my mind (sometimes!) out of that way of thinking. It's been infinitely more difficult to know how to handle the surge of these emotions in my heart.
I've wondered often if the choice to serve cross-culturally makes one more susceptible to feelings of abandonment. This way of life - working in two different languages and cultural differences that we may never fully understand - often puts us in a vulnerable position. And that vulnerability is essential. One of my professors and mentors said that serving cross-culturally can put people on a fast-track to spiritual maturity because it forces the person to be vulnerable. There have certainly been times when I have stepped out uncertainly, wondering if ultimately I am alone...wondering if anyone (or if even the Almighty One) has really got my back. Those doubts have made me feel panicky and made me long to turn back and find a safer perch.
"But if we don't turn back, if we allow ourselves to go naked into the void, we render ourselves vulnerable to a strange discovery: that we exist, that God has given us space to exist - even when God does not seem to exist. To be abandoned is to find out how real you are. God has made you so real that you exist even when alone. Yes, this can be terrifying; something in us is still very infant like, terrified of being alone. But along with terrifying, this realization can be electrifying, an awakening, an enlightenment, a kind of shock therapy that makes a new state of being possible. It is the terror and wonder of realizing more fully the significance of the gift we have always had - the gift of being, of existing, of standing out of the void, of being alive. If we dare to persevere, if we dare to keep holding our why of lament through the longest, darkest night of the year, morning will come. And when it comes, we will carry a new gravitas, a new substance, a new reality worthy of that word "glory." We will find the new day is a moment longer, and the next night a moment shorter. And the turning of a season will have begun, even though the cold of winter hasn't yet begun to show its full force." - McLaren, Naked Spirituality, p. 176-7.
The above quote has been a blessing as I've tried to unpack my feelings of abandonment. I'm not sure I fully believe it, yet :) but I think it can reframe this emotion. I have often interpreted feelings of abandonment as ultimately something about God, but the above quote indicates that feelings of abandonment may serve to show us something important about ourselves.
The author notes that when it feels like we are most on our own, that is when we know we are real. Maybe it's that when we feel abandoned, God is honoring us by helping us acknowledge and come to grips with the fact that we truly exist. Some days that thought brings hope, while other days, I guess I'm still in that infant-like state, still "terrified to be alone."
God, help us survive times when we feel abandoned. We cautiously ask you to use those experiences to mature us and help us know that you have created us in your image and we truly exist.
Grace and Peace,