We derive much of our identity (false identity but I’ll get to that) from moments in our lives. These moments, especially the painful ones of rejection, leave a mark or a wound that needs attention. Sometimes we “heal ourselves” and the scar tissue is really tough but we are “hardened” to protect us from further injury. It is like a bone that heals. I don’t know medically if it is true or not but “they” say the bone is harder where it was broken and will break at another place first. Sometimes the wound doesn’t heal. The symptoms are treated instead of the wound. We surround ourselves with co-dependent relationships that remind us of our acceptance so we don’t live in the pain of rejection.
When I was just a little boy my mother had to run some errands around town. She took my brother and I and her girlfriend to keep her company. We had this old brown station wagon. My brother and I used to play in the very back of that beast. This was before all the seatbelt and car-seat stuff. We would play pretend games and all those things that little boys do. Every so often the “play” turned into wrestling which then turned into fighting. Actually I was pretty mean to my little brother. I would tease him to get a reaction and since he was much smaller than me I would laugh at him while he tried to “gouge out my eyes” or any other attack he could come up with. Right or wrong these “fights” would break out and the back of the station wagon was not the best place for that kind of commotion.
Parents make mistakes so I don’t blame my mom for a poor decision moment but this day left a mark. I don’t know if my mom was embarrassed by our bad behavior or was frustrated by the events of the day or whatever but this day she snapped. She told us to stop and of course we didn’t. She pulled over the mighty brown wagon and pulled us both out (by our hair if I remember correctly) and put us on the sidewalk. We lived in St Louis Missouri at the time so we were in a very populated area. It wasn’t “down town” but it was a busy place. She then got back in the car and drove away with us standing there on the sidewalk of a busy street. I think I was 9 and my brother was 5.
The terror of abandonment is primal. When you are 9 years old your entire life is found in your parents provision and care. You can’t take care of yourself. You don’t have an independent spirit. You aren’t living in rebellion. Your identity is in your relationship with your parents. You are their kids. When that reality is severed you are falling into the abyss. After what my mom said (not appropriate for a PG blog) and what I saw in her eyes I was certain that everything I knew or trusted was over. After a moment of shock I began to sob uncontrollably. Maybe you have been there but it is that deep down pain that takes your breath away. Add a healthy dose of panic (strangers everywhere) and you have the makings of a deep wound. At least I had my little brother. I think he was actually handling it better than I was. As the older one I guess he could transfer his worry to me. I often looked after him so in that moment I was his anchor. My anchor was gone. It was replaced by horror.
She did come back to get us only 20 minutes or so later. For a 9-year-old that is an eternity.
A few years later I was at a Cub Scout meeting and my mom was going to pick me up after. We were meeting at a school next to a park. After the meeting the Scout Master asked me if I needed a ride. I told him “no my mom is coming to get me.” It was a nice evening so I took a seat in the swings in the park. I did the swinging thing for a while but the fear began to creep in. “What if she forgot?” “What if she got in a wreck?” All the “what ifs” were piling up but at the root of all that fear was that day with my brother. Abandoned again. A nice day in the park had turned into a nightmare. I waited and waited. I was alone completely. Even the school and park were off the beaten path so there weren’t cars or people walking or anything. The terror was returning.
She did show up. She was about an hour and a half late if I remember correctly. She had reasons and excuses. She said she was sorry. She did all the right things but for me that was just more proof that being abandoned is just part of life. Ouch.
I hope you can see the parable in this story. This is the fallen human condition. As a human race we felt abandoned by God. We ate the wrong fruit and in our minds we found ourselves enemies to Him. We hid in the bushes and were actually afraid of our Father. He formed us with His own hands and breathed His life into our lungs and we ran from Love. How broken is a fallen mind? We were made to be His children in His family and we ran in fear from that very family. We were abandoned in our actions and forsaken in our selves and lost in the deception. We not only were separated from our source of Love and Life but we were afraid of the one who is Love and Life.
Like my day in the park, the day in the garden turned ugly. My wounds were deep. Mankind’s wounds were beyond healing without a miraculous God intervention. God made them clothes and my mom had apologies but the damage was done.
The difference in the stories is the people in the stories. My mom isn’t God. Like all of us she is learning what it is like to be “as He is in this world.” God however is very different from our fallen image of Him. At the very root of our fallen-condition wound is our broken image of our Father. God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. His nature and character and identity and essence is found in His triune relationship with Himself. He is perfectly complete and set apart (holy) as the pinnacle of perfect Love manifest in relationship. God is oneness in unity in family in acceptance in other-centeredness. The Father finds His identity in the Son and the Son in the Father. The Holy Spirit illuminates and invigorates the conversation and fellowship. They are complete in each other. Abandonment, rejection and exclusion do not exist in their relationship. There is no separation between them. They are continuously turned towards each other in an intimate dance of delight in each others presence. This is our God.
This God made us to share in that “glory.” His goodness expressed in that relationship, His nature and character in familial oneness is our source of identity. God made man to be part of His family. We were in Jesus before we fell in Adam. From the foundations of the Earth we were God’s plan. Our design includes the provision for this existence in Him.
Jesus on the cross completes the inclusion work. Before the cross we were with God. Before the cross mankind was a “seed” of what was to come. In Jesus we “sprouted” into the Kingdom creatures we were designed to be. We were included in the circle dance of Love. We are so included that when God looks at His son He sees the Son of Man. He sees each and every one of us in Jesus. We aren’t covered or hidden or anything like that. His joy is when He looks at us in Jesus. His perfect plan to include us is His expression of joy. He got it done. Jesus finished the work. His family is complete.
In this place we cannot be rejected. We will never be abandoned. We were never abandoned in the first place. We were never orphans. We were always included. The cross made all that real. Our faith brings it into our site. This revelation heals our life experience wounds. This revelation brings us to completeness in our identity in Him instead of in our life experiences. Even station wagon moments get healed. Even days in the park find Him standing right there with me the whole time.
We never every should have a day in the park waiting for Him. We are already in Him. We are no farther from Him then our very breath. I’ll leave you with one passage to call it official:
Acts 17:24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for “‘ In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’
Paul is talking to the Gentiles. Jesus is in all of us, all of humanity and all of humanity is in Him and the Father and Holy Spirit are in Jesus. We are included in the family. It is not possible for you to be rejected. Abandonment is not possible in this family. You don’t have to believe me. Religion will likely present a myriad of verses that says God isn’t that good. You ask the Holy Spirit to show you Jesus and show you how to see the Father like Jesus. He will do it. He is already there in you to do it. The “it is too good to be true” is the Holy Spirit dancing a jig in your heart. That is the good news. You are included.