Meeting with my spiritual director a while back, I was telling him how I was really struggling with “fear of abandonment” in my relationship. This is a trait that they attribute to Adult Children of Alcoholics, of which I am one. But ever since I was a little girl, every loss that I experienced was felt as a sense of abandonment. At first it was girlfriends. My best friend would make a new friend at school and would invite her over for a sleepover and not me – immediately I would sob as I thought she no longer needed me. Eventually it turned to boys. In fact man after man when we would break up, I went sulking that I had once again been abandoned.
Within a month of dating my dream man, this fear had its grip on me. Every time he took a while to respond or didn’t call at night, I immediately felt my entire body tense up and the fear would wash over me. My heart was clenched. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Sometimes I could reason with myself, sit in prayer and let it pass. Other times I would stay up all night feeling the pain as if we actually did break up.
One night I remembered that as a kid, when my parents were out for whatever reason, I would lay in bed so afraid that they were going to get into a car crash and abandon me. I went get so far into the fear that I would react as if it had actually happened. I would sob and feel the great sadness. And then it would pass and I would realize that I had not been in reality.
Here again as a grown adult, I was doing it again. Literally believing the lie of my fear that I was no longer wanted.
So my spiritual director and I talked about how trusting God is the answer to fear. We decided that for Lent, every time the fear would arise, I would get on my knees and pray. I would turn it over and trust in God’s plan for me and for us. I had done this a year ago in regards to my business. Every time anxiety would pop up that I wasn’t going to make enough money, I would pray and new business would roll in. I knew that it would help.
What happened as I turned to trust is that I felt like myself again! I wasn’t crippled in fear every day. I was able to joke again with my boyfriend and my heart wasn’t so clenched. Didn’t I believe in a God greater than me? How much time I had wasted on being worried! Trusting in God brings so much peace.
What came next I hadn’t anticipated. We broke up. We broke up as we entered Holy Week. My worst fear was realized. I sobbed. I sobbed before we could even finish the conversation. I sobbed because I didn’t trust in God (and because it was really sad). I sobbed because I wanted something that was no longer being given to me.
I entered the week with great sadness. I very quickly realized that I was going to be able to enter fully in the suffering of Christ this year in the Passion. Just like so many people right now. So many evil massacres in our world. So many people afraid and being driven from their homes. Cancer and death taking people’s lives much too soon. I am a part of humanity, I am not exempt from the suffering.
But I also know that light enters the darkness and overcomes it. I know that on the other side of sadness is joy. I know that the suffering is not for naught. I know that Easter comes.
Yesterday was Holy Thursday. We remembered Jesus praying in Gethsemane when all the apostles abandon Him. Jesus cries out, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; still not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)
And this tiny miracle is taking my place in my heart. This freedom from this fear that has plagued me all my life. You see, in the end, the only abandoning that needs to take place is me abandoning my life to God’s will.
Today is Good Friday. We remember between the hours of noon and 3pm that Jesus hung on the cross. “And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”* which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Today I take comfort in knowing that God even allowed Jesus to feel the sadness of abandonment in His final moments. The world got dark. Today I unite my suffering with His and in turn, He leads me to the joy, the hope, the light of the resurrection.
In the end, I can never be abandoned if I cling to my Creator who is always there even if I choose not to see Him. A Creator who participates in humanity. A Creator who calls me every single day to take the next step forward, hand in hand with Him as He sheds light on darkness.