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I remember times before
When I was with Your people. Those were better days.
I used to lead them happily into the True God’s house,
Singing with joy, shouting thanksgivings with abandon,
joining the congregation in the celebration.
Isolation. It too often becomes the uninvited guest overstaying its welcome in the lives of parents raising other-than-typical kids. At times we can move through life paying attention to only the duty before us, the things that need to get checked off our list for the day, simple requirements of survival. We don't experience the full force of our marginalization at these times because we are simply too busy with our heavy daily demands of basic living.
But there certain other times when the cold, lonely separation is so dark, our hearts feel as if they might shrivel into nonexistence within us. The weight of abandonment is crushing at those times. We are separated from the gleeful crowd and death seems to envelope us as we watch others walk away from us without any ability to change it. These times of painful emotional shipwreck feel like they will never end.
I'm talking about times like those that fill so many of our calendars now. It's your child's graduation that no one cares to attend, or the summer picnic that you are no longer invited to. It's the wedding invitation that comes, asking you not to bring any of your children, despite others kids being included. It's the shower you attend where everyone treats you like you're just another piece of furniture, adorning an intimate celebration that doesn't include you in the emotional huddle.
If you are anything like me, you suddenly find yourself aghast. How did you get here? When did you go from raising your children with other sweet, fun families, to being the pariah of the neighborhood, barely garnering acknowledgement in public? At what point did the invitations to gatherings with other couples just dry up? When did they decide in social circles or even at church that you just aren't one of the "cool kids"? Was it that last hospital stay, or that latest outburst your child had in the classroom that everybody heard about, or your husbands 5th job loss that rendered you just too messy or complicated or tiresome for them to include you in their lives? Is that what separated you from the common acts of courtesy and kindness offered by those you once thought were friends? Is that what caused them to start looking down their noses at you as if you were "less than"?
In fact, Jesus not only sees, he lived through it himself. The Gospel of Mark, Chapter 6 details Jesus reading and interpreting the Scripture in his hometown temple. His own neighbors doubted him and failed to believe his teaching. Also in Mark, Chapter 3, it states that Jesus own family came to take hold of him when the crowds were growing, because they thought he had lost his mind. In the Gospel of John, Chapter 6, Jesus had many of his disciples fall away because of a difficult teaching he was sharing. He even turned to those who remained and asked if they planned on abandoning him too. He was always in a precarious position wondering who was friend and who was foe.
The closer Jesus marched to the redemption of the cross, the fewer his true friends became. Despite his being chased and adored by the crowds, his isolated increased. This happened because, as he fixed his eyes on the Father and his mission, the more superficial things and people fell by the wayside.
Can you imagine or identify with the abandonment Jesus must have felt as he cried out in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying to the Father, knowing what was coming? Betrayed by nearly everyone he held dear, how did he find the strength to carry that cross to Golgotha, let alone exhale some of his last words in absolution, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do"?
Because Jesus walked our walk, felt our pain, and redeemed it in his own blood, we can be certain that the pain of our isolation will not last forever. Rather than feeling marginalized, we can rejoice in being sanctified. And God's infinite mercy fills in those blank and vacated spaces that old friends or relatives have left in our hearts. He sends new people, those who have experienced our same anguish, or those who have the gift of compassion to fill us afresh with the love and acceptance we may feel has been ripped away.
What comfort to know that while we may feel alone and outcast at times, we possess an infinite love that will never leave us or forsake us.
PRAY: Oh, Father, You see the hurt we feel left by those who have abandoned us because of our complicated lives. LORD, help us to remember that You set us apart to make us holy, but You are with us always. Send us new people as "Jesus with skin on" when we are isolated. Keep us ever hopeful.
~ Barb Dittrich