4/19/2007

Abandoned by God

The wind is one of the metaphors that I use when trying to explain the limitations of an intimate deity. Like God you can’t see the wind but you can feel its effects. God blows where it wills. God can’t be wrapped up, domesticated, or walk hand in hand with us. God is more than relational metaphors. Unlike a loving parent, sometimes the wind abandons us and we are left bereft and alone.

Abandonment is a spiritual place that many have ventured into. “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Jesus cried from the cross. Abandonment is to wake up in the morning to an empty universe, and to go to bed at night with no comforting presence. Abandonment is when prayer is meaningless, and worship no better. With any and every call to God there isn’t even an engaged signal – just an eerie silence on the end of the line. This is the valley of the shadow.

If you are not at the place of abandonment, then be thankful. And be gentle with those who might be experiencing it.

If you are in the valley of shadow then remember those rules many of us learnt as children about being lost in the New Zealand bush: Don’t panic. Don’t run. Don’t let fear or depression overwhelm you. Stay still. Fretting will not help. Light a little fire if you can. If you are with others huddle together for warmth – for you body and your soul. And trust, as the Jewish mystics say, that the Hidden God will be seeking you.

None of the great spiritual traditions of the world offer simple solutions to the question of abandonment by God. At best they offer a series of stories or metaphors that in part contradict one another. There is no one answer that will fit every time.

So here is another metaphor I sometimes use when trying to make sense of abandonment. I talk about God as journey. God isn’t the destination, or the road, or the travelling companion, but the journey itself. God is the different places we come to, places of joy and serenity but also of pain and despair. The valley of shadow is therefore a place within God. It’s a place that we arrive at sometimes through no wish or failing of our own, sometimes through the connivance of others, and sometimes through our own stupid fault.

The cross was Jesus’ place of abandonment. The sky, on cue, darkened. Pain and death resulted. His crucifixion was seen as a political and religious necessity by the powerful, and totally destructive and pointless by his followers. Whatever you believe about Easter Sunday one thing is clear: Jesus’ didn’t carry on living, growing old with Mrs Jesus and having grandkids. His death was real. His pain was real. His abandonment was real. The God that he had lived was gone; and until we take that seriously we will not begin to fathom Good Friday or to understand our pain.

5 comments:

  1. Anonymous7:48 AM

    That place of abandoment hurts. I try running, turning to others however nothing can fill or remove the feeling of be cast a drift. Praying, reading the Bible attending worship just make it worse, they make the sense of abandoment worse. I cry out to God and my words just echo around and around before getting lost in the black space that was God

    Shirley

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  2. Dreamer11:40 PM

    The journey is amazing isn't it? It twists and turns in all sorts of peculiar directions.
    I like the idea of God as the journey ........ also the resting in where one is NOW, even if it is an abyss. There is always a tiny flame to latch the imagination onto. thanks Glynn.

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  3. Dreamer11:45 PM

    I like the idea of the journey. There is always the tiniest spark or flickering flame even when the abandonment seems profound. Perhaps that tiny flicker is the God self.
    Thanks Glynn. Isn't imagination an amazing gift?

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  4. Dreamer11:51 PM

    I like the idea of the journey. There is always the slightest flicker/flame, even in the depths.
    Thanks Glynn. Imagination is an extraordinary gift isn't it.

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  5. Thank you, Glynn Cardy. You put into words what my heart knows only by silence.

    It is only half-comforting to know that I am in God when I am in this place. But I strive to trust that God is still seeking me.

    I shall add you to my list of blogs.

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