“No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.” John 14:18 (NLT)
Last weekend Wendy and I were in a production at the local community center. As part of the development of our roles each actor in the play was required to create a character study. The director then printed edited versions of the character studies and hung them in the gallery for audience members to peruse during intermission. As I was getting the gallery ready before the performance of Sunday’s matinee one of my fellow actors was reading through all of the character studies.
“It’s interesting,” he said, “how many of these characters had fathers who were missing or dead.” Sure enough, a majority of the actors had written that their character’s father was unknown, dead or had abandoned them.
Along the journey I’ve come to recognize just how large of a hole is torn in one’s soul when a child feels or is abandoned by their father. The effects go deep and are long lasting. I had to ask myself how many of the actors in the show last weekend were projecting their own personal pain into that of their characters.
I don’t think I’ve appreciated how this profoundly personal issue is intertwined in Jesus’ story. Jesus makes a point of telling His followers that He is not abandoning them, even as He prepares to be taken from them for execution. Despite what they may think, feel, perceive and experience in the coming days, they are not abandoned – they are not orphaned. Jesus even encouraged His followers with these words less than 24 hours before He Himself would take on the sins of the world, suffer a cruel death and cry out from the cross “My God, why have you abandoned me?”
Today as I prepare to observe Jesus’ betrayal, death and resurrection in the coming weekend, I’m struck that the core human fear of abandonment is woven throughout the story. I’m also reminded that while the scars of abandonment run deep they are not lethal, nor inevitable, nor impervious to healing. Addressing and healing, once and for all, the pain of abandonment is at the core of why Jesus came to us in the first place.