What had happened to my life and how had things turned so quickly? We had renewed our vows on Valentine’s Day, and it seemed, even to me, that we lived the perfect life. We had four beautiful little boys and another child on the way. Our large home had been built, much of it by our own hands, in an upscale neighborhood. Yes, it needed a lot of work, but we were looking forward to making it “perfect” together over the years. Friends and family were welcome and visited often. Laughter was a constant companion in days filled with sunshine.
Challenges and darkness had risen ugly heads in the past, but they seemed to have faded and finally been replaced by a deeper Love, a Love that comes only from choosing to face hard times with maturity, Trust, and sheer stubbornness, the refusal to succumb to defeat.
But on Mother’s Day 2009, that darkness sliced home in a way it had never dared before. Our perfect life shattered as my husband revealed the ex-girlfriend he’d reconnected with on Facebook and his decision to choose the ease of her wealthy, unencumbered existence over life with his own family.
Three months after we had renewed our vows, the man I loved, the father to my five sons, moved out; life for his children and wife would never be the same.
The next several years would bring dramatic change to our lives. A lack of child support would mean we’d lose our home, the home we loved and had helped build with our own hands. The memories of laughter and inside jokes along with plans for the future built on sand had been washed away as surely as if our vows had been merely words written on a beach too close to the sea in a storm.
We’d struggle to find housing and look to government support for heat and food and other necessities – and we’d find our government a maze of hoops we could not jump through. We watched as others abused the system while we were left cold abandoned by the system meant to help people like us.
I’d spend the next several months sleepless, nursing a newborn through a cold winter, tending broken-hearted children hurt and confused, shaken by the shifting world they stood on, forced to hire attorneys and appear in court but unable to wrap my head around all I needed to do. Each moment 24/7 was spent literally shaking from head to toe in what I’m guessing was a form of PTSD, although I will not compare it to what our heroes suffer in the battlefield. I had to find a job and housing, sell our home and care for five children 11 years old and younger.
Friends and even strangers brought food and donations, but the thank you notes I knew I should write were another overwhelming task I couldn’t handle. Even when I wrote them, I forgot to mail them and more shame filled me knowing I owed these kind people better than this. My pride dropped. My blossoming self-esteem vanished. I saw myself through my husband’s eyes and knew how worthless I was.
Friendships changed. I could no longer relate to fun but shallow conversations. I was consumed by trying to keep my head above water. People who swore they’d be there forever drifted away, some choosing my fun loving ex and the other woman over me and my brokenness.
It wasn’t just the impersonal government or shallow friendships adding to the pain. It was God Himself. Where was He in all of this???
We had gone to Mass together every Sunday. We had thanked the Lord for our food before each dinner. We had fallen asleep holding hands each night. Hadn’t we been told, “The family that prays together stays together”? Hadn’t we been told God hates divorce? Why wasn’t God showing my husband how much we loved and needed him? Why wasn’t He showing this other woman the pain she caused? Why wasn’t God fighting for our marriage? Why had God abandoned the children and I in this way?
The Greatest Suffering is to Feel Alone, Unwanted, Unloved
The quote from Mother Teresa hit home, and I realized its truth while watching the movie, The Letters, depicting her life and the questions she had about God’s involvement in her work and His Love for her.
I remembered the glimpse of Hell I received after my husband left. The glimpse had come clearly but was not filled with the physical torture I knew Hell would also contain. I believe God knew I could not take physical pain added to my mental, emotional, and spiritual distress, but the glimpse into Hell came clearly in the realization that the greatest suffering of Hell would be the separation from God, the absence of Love itself.
I literally crawled on my hands and knees in the dark looking for the Crosses I’d flung across the backyard in my anger and rejection of the God who was all powerful and yet had chosen to stand silent, idly watching the family I loved be torn apart.
I knew with absolute clarity in that moment that the greatest suffering would be abandonment, not by a mere husband willing to walk out on responsibilities, not in the absence of one who selfishly sought his own happiness over those he had promised to love, honor, and cherish, but in the abandonment of The One who was willing to give His only Son for our eternal Joy. I also knew the only way He would abandon me was if I rejected Him.
It hit me then that, while many honorable Men are willing to fight for our country risking death for our freedom, protection, and ability to live fully, only one Man was willing to leave Heaven’s utopia to be born to a pain-filled, sin-filled world that would reject Him.
The pain Jesus felt during the scourging at the pillar, the crowning of thorns, the carrying the Cross, and even the final crucifixion may have paled compared to the pain of abandonment by those He Loved. Jesus’ physical suffering may have paled in comparison to finding his disciples asleep in the Garden while He sweat blood fearing what awaited Him. Jesus’ physical suffering may have paled in comparison to the pain of seeing crowds that had welcomed Him with waving Palms only a few days before now jeer and chant, “Crucify Him. Crucify Him.” Jesus’ physical suffering may have paled in comparison to His questioning how things had gone so wrong so quickly. It may have paled in comparison to having Peter, the Rock upon which His Church would be built, deny him three times, and it may have paled in comparison to having his beloved apostle, Judas, betray Him with a kiss.
Jesus was abandoned, rejected, alone, unwanted, unloved, perhaps not by His Father, but by the very people He had voluntarily been born to save – us.
While I am uncomfortable saying it aloud or putting it into words here, there is no doubt in my mind that I felt a glimpse of Hell that day several years ago or that I knew God was speaking to me about the power of Love and the utter icy emptiness, a cold emptiness there are no words to explain, of Love’s absence.
It was a realization that the abandonment I felt at my husband’s leaving paled in comparison to what I would feel if I did not turn fully toward the Lord. It was another beginning to my understanding of what living a lukewarm faith meant, the faith so many are content with without even realizing it, the faith I had been content with without even realizing it.
The Gift of Abandonment
The realization came that abandonment felt by the divorced, the rejected, and the lonely might actually be a gift from God, a call leading us closer to the Lord in the same way Jesus’ abandonment was part of His gift leading us closer to Him.
I began to see just a tiny bit of how much pain Jesus must have had in the Garden, standing before the crowds, being denied by Peter and betrayed by Judas, and as He hung on the Cross watching the way I would choose misery in my husband’s abandonment over comfort in His Love. I began to recognize the gift Jesus gave that reached beyond the physical pain.
Today, there was darkness in Jesus’ land. The veil had been torn. The earth had shaken. The clouds had cast deep shadows. Those the Jesus Loved unconditionally ran and hid in fear. They did not understand. They had abandoned their Lord, and with limited human understanding, believed He had abandoned them as well. They were stuck in a Saturday mentality.
They did not know death meant an awakening like humankind had never known was possible. They did not know Sunday was coming.
Today, many of the divorced are in that same state of Saturday. They feel the death of their Marriage, but also the death of hopes and dreams for futures. What is worse is the death they feel for their children’s futures. They quake at the abandonment of the one they loved most, the one who would betray them with a kiss.
And they wonder if God has abandoned them too.
But abandonment is not the end of the story
~ unless you choose it to be.
This may be your Saturday, but Sunday is coming if you accept your abandonment is a gift. Abandonment by those nearest to us brings us to a fork in the road. We may choose, as Judas and the crowds and so many before and around us will, to abandon God believing He has abandoned us. We may choose to fail to admit that in rejecting God in our most painful moments, He does not abandon us but we abandon Him. In our pain and our fear and our confusion, we become those asleep in the Garden, those chanting in the crowds, those whose actions He saw from His Cross. In some ways, it would be understandable to abandon God, just as those long ago did. We too have no way of knowing what will come out of this dark period. God is silent in our Saturdays, and, like the first believers, we have no way of knowing Sunday is coming or when it will appear.
But we have a choice the first believers did not understand. We know there is a rising again. We know Easter brings a Resurrection and a new Life. We know in dying we are born again. We know abandonment and pain may be part of the detoxification process.
We may choose the gift of abandonment to bring us closer to God, to rely solely on Him, to discover Joy in every circumstance. We may see abandonment as a gift, the gift of emptying ourselves of ourselves and of those who hold us down, a gift of emptiness to be filled with the Lord instead of with man. Abandonment can be a gift uniting us with Jesus, allowing us to see a very small glimpse of the Hell of good-enough, lukewarm faith. Abandonment can make us long for a relationship with God, helping us understand that we do not want lukewarm love from our Savior and so should not offer lukewarm love to Him.
While few of us would choose the gift of abandonment and most of us have cried out to God for some other way, One Man chose abandonment painfully, but unselfishly. Jesus, the God made Man, chose to come to earth for you. He too cried out to God for some other way, but He chose to follow the ways of His Father despite the abandonment He felt so deeply.
The agony of Jesus’ abandonment is part of His gift to you as surely as your spouse’s abandonment may be a well-hidden gift to you, an awareness of lukewarm faith, a restless, peaceful searching for more.
Today, if you feel alone, unwanted, unloved, if you feel the deep agonizing pain of abandonment and betrayal by a kiss, realize this darkness is part of your Saturday. Choose to believe, as Jesus did, that greater things lie ahead, whether in this life or the next.
Jesus’ abandonment, the absence of love He felt by those He Loved, may have been our Savior’s greatest suffering and among His greatest gifts to you. Accept His gift and choose to use your feelings of abandonment to draw closer to God knowing that even when He is silent or when His answer is simply, “No,” the entire Trinity is by your side, carrying you, lifting you away from lukewarm faith, and toward the Light that will surely rise with Sunday’s dawn.
The Beauty of the Lord is in found in the Resurrection.
Today is Saturday, but Sunday is coming.
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