Monday, September 3, 2012

When You Feel Abandoned


The needles click softly, one against the other, and the yarn slips through my fingers like a silent river, washing away the world.

I knit and purl and slip.  I decrease and increase, decrease and increase.  And then I do it all again.  A hundred times over.  A thousand.  More.

The hours, they turn into days, weeks.  Yes, even months come and go while the pen lies still, connections fade right out, and I lose myself just like I lose everything else.

I might want to believe that I'm just wrapped up in the creating, this wild-eyed woman who can't rest until every last stitch is in its place.

But I'm not blind.

Even with my eyes shut tight against all that aches and burdens, the truth still lingers here like a fragmented dream.  So every day, I pick up the needles one more time, bury the head in this complicated pattern, and refuse to say the words out loud.

I feel abandoned by God.

The bald, ugly truth, it's lodged in the soul like a shard of glass, but I've no strength to wrench it out.  So I pull the corners of a tattered life together, hide that gaping wound beneath all this silence, and I knit as if nothing else mattered in the whole wide world.

Because who really wants to bare the soul when you're still waiting for God to show up--and you're just a bit terrified that He won't?

But then, who can bear to hide and tremble alone when you're feeling abandoned by the One Who loved you into life?

It isn't courage that's brought me to this moment right here, speaking straight out of the dark.  It's only this--a desperate longing to be found, known, loved.  One last shred of hope that I am not alone, that I am not abandoned.

I try to piece together the road that's gotten me here, and there's only one thing that I see clear--sometimes its the smallest things of a life that point a soul to despair.  Because I can't put a finger on the day it began--the when of all this--but I know the why and the how without even thinking.

My beloved cat, she's been ill for months and I feel it deep, as if God's mocking this woman He's already burdened with a decade of chronic illness.  It nearly breaks me, caring for my kitty and myself, making medical decisions for us both.

And then comes this:  The job I've held for eight years, the one that keeps the high cost of treatment from bowling me right over--the bottoms falls clean out one morning.  For long weeks, I'm left waiting for a phone call that will leave me without an income, without a way to obtain my own medicine.

In four years' time, I've already lost home and independence and loved ones and all my dreams for the future.  And there's this one bitter part of me that wishes God would just stop with all the reprieves--those weeks and months between loses, the ones where I start to heal and hope and live again.

Because those reprieves?  They feel like love.

And the resumption of all that loss?  It feels like a kick to the gut, me lying in the ditch beside a broken life while I watch the back of God disappear from sight.

You can throw theological arguments at me all day long and it won't change that deep ache I feel, the sense that God really has walked right out on me.  Because how I feel, it's got nothing to do with the truth and everything to do with what I believe.

What I choose to believe.

Yes, I see it now.  How I've chosen despair because I've chosen to believe what my circumstances keep shouting:

I've been abandoned by God.

But have I?

Maybe I don't really know the answer to that but I do know this--I've got a choice to make.  And maybe I'm not quite ready to believe that all this heartache adds up to a life hid in God but I'm ready to try to believe it anyway.

And maybe, just maybe, this is how it always begins.  That desperate eleventh-hour choice to try one last time to find God in the pitch black and believe, for one more hour, that all is not lost.

So I make a choice and I start small.  I write out those words like a mantra half-a-dozen times a day.

I choose to believe You're near and mighty to save.

I'm writing out those words again and again, but what I'm actually doing is this--making a choice again and again.  A choice to keep trying until I really do believe.  A choice to shout out what just might be the truth until it silences everything else.

Until it silences me.

Because I might've thought I was burying this wounded soul beneath a whole mountain of quiet, but there's no burying of that aching fear of abandonment.  No, it's always the one doing the burying until all that's left is a gnawing loneliness and an unspoken certainty that we truly have been abandoned.

A friend, she says it right when she declares that we're always keeping track of something.  And if we're not counting up His gifts and His goodness and His grace, then we're counting up all the ways we've been let down, hurt, forgotten, abandoned.

Yes, sometimes it's all the little things of a life that can point a soul straight to despair.  But I'm certain now--it's the little things, too, that can also point us all back to the Hope Who Is.

So I dig out the gratitude journal from where it's been hiding and I refuse the guilt over having left it this long.  Because I took the dare all those months ago.  The dare to find joy in all the days of a year.

Isn't the search for Joy really the search for Him?

And when you're feeling abandoned by God, isn't the search for Him the only thing worth doing?

I'll say it straight out that I don't know yet whether God's near or far or what He's up to in all this mess.  But I'm choosing to look for Him.  I'm choosing to climb out of this pit I'm in.  I'm choosing to believe what seems more than a little impossible.

God hasn't abandoned me.

God hasn't abandoned you.

We are not abandoned.

And we are not without hope.



Since this post is already long and full, excerpts from the gratitude list will be saved for another day.  Thank you for grace.

10 comments:

  1. I know I have said it before, but I will say it again...You have the gift of a story weaver. When I read your pain, I wish I could fix it. But I am no healer. I can pray. So today I whisper up a prayer for you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @Mama Griffith: Thank you, Friend, for sweet words. It's okay (actually, much needed) to say the same things over again because when it comes to good things, my heart tends to leak like a sieve. It's all the unpleasant things that seem to lodge like "sticks in the mud." :o) So thank you for seeing beauty here in my writing, even when the story I have to tell is oh-so-broken. And for your prayers? There are no words to adequately express my gratitude. You are a gift, Friend, and I am thankful for you.

      Delete
  2. What splendid lace! I'm very sorry for the pain woven into it, but I understand how the rhythmic complexity of needles/hook and yarn can soothe and distract. So sorry also for the seriously ill kitty. We buried two beloved dogs 13 months apart, so I think I understand something of how you feel in the hard decisions and care now and the grieving in advance of the loss.

    I think I understand those things, but this I know:
    "The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:18). When you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He is with you (Psalm 23). He is with you; He will strengthen you; He will uphold you with His righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).

    Those are not theological arguments thrown at you, friend, but the only life preserver I know. The words of God speaking truth into me by the Spirit of God are the only things that pull me out of the pit of deceitful emotions and set my feet back on firm ground.

    Feelings of abandonment by God are so very common among His devoted followers. Mother Teresa lost the felt sense of God's presence right around the time she founded the Sisters of Charity; she lived the rest of her life without that consolation. As you write, it is our choice, many times each day, to "shout out truth" or believe the lies the enemy hurls at us about God, ourselves, and our circumstances.

    May you find courage, dear Courtney, to lean hard into truth and believe that you are loved, known, and not abandoned. May the Lord grant you the gracious consolation of His felt presence when you need it most. May He give new dreams, new hopes, new provision and turn your mourning into dancing in His time. Father of mercies, comfort Courtney's afflictions!

    Your friends are hoping for you until you can hope for yourself. Your honesty is appreciated. I'm glad to know better how to pray, dearie.

    Love,
    christina

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @tinuviel: I cried all the way through your words here, Friend. Because I've been feeling so lost and disconnected of late and you really have thrown in a life preserver, thrown in yourself to comfort. And I am so grateful.

      I had no fear that you'd throw theological arguments at me; I think I needed to put that in to make it clear that I'm perfectly aware of how incongruous my feelings are with scriptural truth. And somehow the fact that my feelings are "wrong" doesn't seem to make them hurt any less (wouldn't that be wonderful if incorrect feelings simply didn't make us feel anything?). The scriptures here are a comfort to me, so thank you.

      Your hopes and prayers for me and a balm to this aching soul of mine. Thank you for love and friendship and prayers and hope. You have been a literal Godsend to me and I am oh so grateful.

      Much love to you, Dear One!

      Delete
  3. oh Courtney,

    i feared (and surmised) that you were going through a hard time, but i didn't know how desperately hard! and i'm sure i still don't. like Mama Griffith, I wish I could fix things--make your cat better, sort out your job and health problems, make your trials disappear like snow on the water. I wish I could put you in a place where you don't have to struggle against fear, or despair, or bitterness,or--worst of all--a sense of being abandoned by God. But all I can do is intercede, and ask the Comforter to do all the things I can't. this i'm doing, and will keep doing...

    love,

    chris

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @chris: Just the fact that you want to fix things is a comfort to me. And your intercession on my behalf really is the greatest "fix" for the deep hurts that ail me right now. You friendship and faithful wisdom mean more than I can say. Thank you for all of it.

      Delete
  4. Courtney,

    I shared something with you on your Google account that I pray may be an encouragement. The only answer I have is prayer, and I know how powerful God is in response to our weak prayers. I don't know that I can say anything more than I've been where you are at, and I KNOW God's grace is sufficient. Shalom! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @Lover of Christ: I think the only answer *is* prayer. I know you are a faithful intercessor on behalf of so many and I am deeply grateful for your prayers. And thank you, too, for the assurance that I am not alone in what I am going through and that you have found God faithful. Much grace to you, Friend.

      Delete
  5. Beloved, beloved friend. You are beautiful. You are brave. If it's okay with you, I will wait with you for Him. I will hold your hand and your heart. We can sit in the still silence and simply...breathe and wait. I love you so.

    Bernadette

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @Bernadette: Ah, Friend. There's nothing I'd like more than to wait with you, hand in hand. Wishing you weren't far away tonight and always. But love's reaching straight across the miles and I am so, so grateful for you.

      Delete