“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” – Philippians 3:7
Janis Joplin famously sang that “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” She was singing about her relationship with Bobby McGee, of course, and noted how she had shared her soul with him. It’s a love song, and we learn she’s been abandoned by her dear Bobby. I find myself contrasting that with a scene in Jurassic Park where Dr. Grant, the dinosaur expert, takes the park’s owner’s grandchildren under his wing. They had been abandoned by the lawyer who was supposed to watch out for them. Young Lex says, “He abandoned us. He left us!” and Dr. Grant responds, “Yes he did, but that’s NOT what I’m going to do.”
The proof of the pudding is in the tasting, they say, and it’s true. Grief finds us all. I don’t like to bemoan the fact my mother abandoned our family when I was a young lad, but she did. I don’t like to bemoan the fact that I have occasionally been tossed under the bus by those charged with taking care of “their” people, but I have. People and events conspire to beat us down, and there are times I can feel the tendrils of so-called good intentions twisting ‘round my heart, constricting it, squeezing it, and twisting it with some sort of perverted pleasure. Like Jesus on the cross, I want to cry out, “God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
But then I look into those rich, brown, piercing eyes of the One who steps out from the tomb and says, “I haven’t. I haven’t abandoned you.” I see tears streaming down his blood-streaked face and realize he has taken my pain upon himself, that what I had thought to be “unbearable,” was made bearable precisely by his act of love in life and on the cross, from the cradle to the grave. Suddenly, resurrection has brought healing so that, despite all else, it is now truly well, with my soul.
God, it is so easy to try to fill the void of abandonment with the accretions of accomplishments, but nothing can fill the void of the God-shaped hole in my heart except you. So help me move aside all things – good and bad – so that you may come in to continue the work begun in Christ to make this soul a home fit for you. Only then will it ever be well with my soul. Amen.
– Fr. Keith Axberg