Tag Archives: Abandonment

Child-Like Reactions in a World of Adult Suffering

Creative Commons photo by James Wheeler via Flickr
Creative Commons photo by James Wheeler via Flickr

But if I go to the east, he is not there;
    if I go to the west, I do not find him.
When he is at work in the north, I do not see him;
    when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.
Job 23:8-9 (NIV)

This, I have come to know: Children see in part, and they know in part. A child’s understanding of the adult world is incomplete. A child’s perception of reality is innocently askew. Children see bogey-men in the shadows, yet their fear is real. A child in an empty room may feel utterly alone in the universe, even when the house around them is fully occupied. For a parent, a child’s warped perception of reality can be alternately endearing and maddening.

We reach a point in adulthood, if we are fortunate and wise, when truth catches up with honest misperception. Having ventured out on our own road to waypoints on the broader horizon, we glance back to find that our vision has expanded with our experiences. What we once saw, as children, in black and white we now see in full Technicolor. When we were young we never saw those details in the background of our child-like perceptions, but now we look back and they suddenly appear to us in high-definition.

I have also observed along my journey that when we experience suffering as adults our reactions are often very child-like. Adult pain unconsciously brings out the screaming, fearful, lonely child in all of us. We want to be embraced. We desire to be comforted. We want to hear a confident whisper in our ear letting us know that everything will be alright. I wonder if, in those moments of pain, we don’t also regress back to our childish misperceptions.

I thought of this as I read Job’s words today. He feels utter isolation from the omnipresent God. It seems to me that his perceptions are askew, yet his feelings are real. Maybe that is the point. Job is on a journey, too. He is progressing through his pain and his feelings and perceptions are working themselves out amidst the mind-bending, spirit quenching realities of his suffering. Like an innocent child suddenly thrust into the harsh realities of an adult world, Job is desperately seeking his spiritual bearing. He will find his way. He will look back from that way-point on the horizon and see this stretch of road with greater clarity. But that’s not where he is in this moment. And, that’s okay.

Chapter-a-Day John 14

Source: jonragnarsson via Flickr

“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.