I started reading Louis Giglio's new book, Not Forsaken. I started it a week ago, but haven't gotten past the first chapter. Like much of Giglio's writing, it is rich in truth and touches on things that stir the heart and draws me to the Father.
As I read the first chapter, I knew I would need to take it slow to ruminating on one chapter at a time. I soon realized the word forsake was a good place for me to start. As I looked it up and read the definition and its synonyms, different pictures popped into my head. Forsake means to abandon, bringing to mind a women reeling from the news that her spouse has found someone else.
It means to desert someone without the intention of coming back, bringing to mind a husband who finds a note left by the wife who didn't even have the decency to tell him in person.
It means to leave a person high and dry, bringing to mind a child whose dad or mom has deserted them in their most formative years, leaving them ill equipped to navigate the life they live, the pain they will experience, the tumultuous relationships they will have, and the struggle between right and wrong they will face on a daily basis.
It means to fail to protect someone who is depending on you, bringing to mind children left in the care of unsafe people, especially when children have said either verbally or nonverbally that they don't feel safe.
It means to leave someone when leaving them places them in a weakened state, bringing to mind a child whose needs will never be fully met as a result of a parent's selfish decision.
It means to turn your back on someone, bringing to mind a child calling after a parent, "I need you," as the parent walks away for the last time or the child who is clamoring for approval and a father or mother refuses to give it.
It means to cast someone aside, bringing to mind ladies in our groups who were used and abused and cast aside like today's trash.
It means to give up on a relationship, bringing to mind the marriage in which one spouse wants to work on it and the other doesn't or a parent seeking to repair a relationship with an adult child who is unwilling to forgive.
It means to disown someone, bringing to mind a parent so angry with a child that she writes them off, refusing to visit, return calls, or open letters. The list goes on, including other words like jilt, renounce, relinquish, disclaim, disavow, desert, or discard. I will let you use your imagination for.
As I have processed the first chapter, I realize how much of my life I struggled with the fear of being forsaken. It began in early childhood when my parents were struggling and threatened divorce. As children do, I personalized their desire to leave and made it my responsibility to try to hold them together. I did this by trying to be good so neither would get angry enough to leave, by bossing siblings around so they wouldn't rock the proverbial boat, by assuming more than my share of household chores so mom didn't get overwhelmed and leave, by staying home on Friday nights when friends were hanging so the parents didn't have too much to worry about, and by keeping some pretty dark secrets that needed telling because I feared those secrets would push them over the edge. I also did this by confronting the parent who eventually left, forever complicating the relationship we had.
I carried that fear into friendships. It played out in my being a compliant friend--one who seldom voiced her preferences, desires, dreams, opinions, or needs. It played out when a the thought of using my voice to express some very real concerns over what I was seeing terrified and silenced me and eventually sent me running from a friend who desperately needed me to stay.
I carried that fear into my marriage where it kept me silent again. I was afraid to express my needs, desires, opinions, or concerns for fear my spouse would leave me with five kids to raise alone. I was afraid to confront sinful patterns that were chiseling away at the foundation of our marriage for fear he would head out the door. I know now that my fear of being forsaken was irrational because my husband is a man who has desperately always wanted to break the pattern of divorce that reigned over our extended families. He is a gentle man, a kind man, and one whose anger tends to be more passive than aggressive. Yet, my heart was terrified. There were times I needed to use my voice so he could understand the ways he was hurting me. There were times I needed to use my voice to get help with the kids, but didn't. There were times I needed to use my voice to confront his sin and invite him to be the man God was calling him to be. Oh, we eventually had those conversations, but I grieved that my fear kept us from fixing things that needed fixing long before they caused us so much pain.
When I read the book She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martydom of Cassie Bernall, I was enamored by a scene the author described. Her daughter, Cassie, had gone through a rebellious stage and had gotten into all sorts of dark stuff, including witch craft, that had left her emotionally scarred. The parents moved their family and fought long and hard for their daughter and her salvation. One day she was having a day in which she was filled with anger and all sorts of painful emotions and rebellious feelings. Instead of fighting her and disciplining her, Cassie's dad grabbed her and held her tight. At first she struggled and beat on his chest as she was wailing. He just kept hugging her tight until all the anger dissipated and she leaned into him and resting in his arms she wept all the tears she needed to weep.
When I went into counseling to face underlying pain and anger of the dark secrets I had kept, this vision of Cassie and her dad often came to mind and I longed to scream and wail and still find myself being held, knowing full well someone, anyone would stay and hold me for as long as it took to get rid of the pain. Then God began to whisper Hebrews 13:5 into my mind, "I will never leave you or forsake you." The vision of Cassie's dad holding her was soon replaced with one of me climbing a mountain and crying out at the top of my lungs all the hurt, the rage, and the questions I had held on to for so long. I remember being met with the Abba's loving presence and Him holding me and whispering in my ear, "It is okay. I will never leave you. I will never forsake you. I am here for good." I realized those dark secrets had lead me to believe and doubt my Abba's love and as I began to rest in the fact that He had promised to never leave or forsake me, I found my voice. I found my courage. I found my God-given passion. And, as a result of His healing, I have become more of who God created me to be, not trying to be who I thought others expected me to be and with that freedom came great peace.
Even though my relationship with my earthly father were complicated and so deeply flawed on all sides, I am grateful my story doesn't end there. Nor does it end with the abuse I experienced but was never able, as a child, to talk to my parents about. As Giglio put it in his book, "No one who knows Him as Father will be forsaken. No one will be left behind. No one will be orphaned. No one will go unwanted. No one's story will end with abuse and betrayal. No one will have to live without a father's love. No one, ever." Because of what Jesus did on the cross for me, I will never have to cry out the words He cried out, "My God, why have you forsaken me?"