[Word count: 635. Approximate read time: 2-3 minutes]
On Father’s Day, a sermon in a Black church usually needs the disclaimer: “Because we have problems with our earthly fathers, relating to God as a ‘heavenly father’ is difficult.” That’s because we view our relationship with God through our experiences with people. This guarantees a warped view.
Among my own warps are some weighty abandonment issues. And lately, they’ve become inflamed like a habanero on the tongue. I basically believe leaving is just something people do. People become disinterested. People get distracted. People take offense. Sometimes they die. But one way or another, they leave. And since God seems to do whatever he wants whenever he wants, this feeds a nagging suspicion He may do the same.
- “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20 KJV)
- “I will never leave nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5 NKJV)
- “I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you” (John 14:18 KJV)
- And this is my favorite: “Neither height nor depth nor principalities nor powers nor past or present nor future shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:38-39 KJV)
Through my warped filters, I hear these scriptures differently. They may say nothing can come between us, but what if that “nothing” has an asterisk? This scares me. Por favor, no me abandonas. S’il vous plaît, ne me quitte pas. How many ways can I say… please don’t leave.
“I’m scared to fight, ‘cause I’m scared to bleed.
I’m scared to love, ‘cause I’m scared [you’ll] leave.”
—Jazmine Sullivan, “Fear”
The problem has progressed to the point where I can’t really get close to people, arrested by a fear of not being able to handle the rejection. Basic interactions trigger a series of alarms from “they may leave” to “are they leaving?” to “I knew it… now they’re gone.” That insecurity complicates relationships with people the same irrational way it complicates my relationship with God.
As frequently as I suspect people may abandon me, I fall into feeling God is either dead, distant, or nonexistent. The moment this happens, the motivation to do “believer” things drops sharply. “If God isn’t there, why bother?” These fears make my faith unstable.
Shaken and stirred
Last week, a friend invited me to church. And while there, a beautiful, strong, old, tender, and fearless woman saw my face and discerned it. She took my head in both hands and shook it firmly as she said to me, “I can see the confusion in your eyes. I understand that you are upset and angry. This is just a season.” As she pled, I felt God’s presence seeping through her like paper towels on a spill.
I needed someone to wake me up and say “It’s not over for you. God still is. You’re not alone. Not only does God not disavow knowledge of you, I don’t. I see you, he sees you, and there is more to your story.” I needed someone to see me. My perception of God came through it, through a person.
What I have described is the sickness that I manage. It requires assistance, like a heart that needs to be shocked out of its dysrhythmia. This is the disease I seek healing from. “If you are willing, you can make me clean” (Mark 1:40).
Fortunately, I have a handful of people who— regardless of how I grimace and curse— stay. People who stay help reorient me to a God who does not leave. They are corrective lenses that help me see past hurt-borne astigmatism. Their presence promotes healing. And they model love in observable ways that embarrass my fears publicly. They believe for me when I don’t. They believe in me when I can’t. So to those who have stayed… you don’t know what you do for me. Thank you.
Now for some dark humor to lighten the mood, watch the music video below
(or try this link if you’re using a mobile device):
Related Articles on Junkyard Salvation:
- By Your Side: A Devotional — Here’s how a love song by Sade reminds me of God’s promises to me in the Bible.
- The Darkest Night — A short confessional about why I don’t quite believe at the moment…
- Stop Making Sense — Faith does answer some questions that math won’t. Take a look at the downside to the need to understand everything.
- If, Then, But and Other Things You Said — Sacrilege as it seems, I’ve had to question how effective the Bible is. Don’t stone me. I have reasons.
- For Believers Who Have Considered Apostasy When Faith Isn’t Enuf — If you’ve never wondered if living as an Agnostic would be easier than living as a Christian, then you haven’t lived long enough. I thought about it…