“My God, my God. Why have you forsaken me?”
As a child those words shocked me. How could the Father turn his back on the Son in the worst moment of Jesus’s life? The crucifixion and the resurrection were the whole reason that Jesus came to earth, and now in the grand climax of the story, when the entire theater is hushed, when passersby have stopped to watch, when all of creation is holding its breath, God the Father has closed his eyes, turned his back, and walked away.
I’m writing about the Bible, so I’ll apologize for these next words in advance: What an asshole.
I remember at a Christian youth event, when a pastor talked about this passage and imagined if he could sacrifice his child on the cross for humanity. He had a cross on stage and one of his kids leaned against it so that all the teens and pre-teens in the room could witness the hypothetical sacrifice he was talking about. And we all knew that of course he would because that’s what God the Father did with his Son. The pastor asked a question that we all knew the answer to: Would he sacrifice his child for the sake of humanity? And his answer was one-word simplicity: No. He turned around on the stage, picked up his child, and said no. Now as good Christian boys and girls, we sat in stunned and confused silence. But today, as maybe not such a good Christian girl, I clap at that memory because I would do the same for a child I loved.
Maybe its because I’ve felt forsaken by God too. For me it’s never been that he turned away, rather that he stood, silent and just out of reach. I compared my life to a wrestling match with the circle drawn on the ground and me already in the ring. And God stands just outside the line, so that the match can’t begin but I can’t leave either. So I ask him to step up, to speak up, to do something. Silence. I beg and plead that he would show mercy and act. Nothing. I fall asleep with tears rolling down my cheeks as I chant again and again “Please help. Please help. Please help.” Staring. I throw up my hands, with middle fingers extended, because maybe God will come after a disobedient child since he doesn’t seem to care for a good one. I can feel the movement of a breeze but nothing from the Almighty.
If you’ve been going to church for a while or read the Bible or watch enough Easter movies, you know how the cross ends. Jesus dies, offering his spirit into the hands of the Father who had turned away. He is buried in the tomb of another man as women weep, men return to their fishing nets, and politicians congratulate one another on a job well done. That’s how Friday ended. If you’re heard or read or watched the story, you know about Sunday. But on that Friday night, the people around Jesus didn’t. They didn’t know if their broken hearts would survive until Sunday. Why would they expect anything good to happen that day?
God and I are still more than an arm’s reach away from one another. I don’t picture a wrestling match anymore. It’s more like a living room, where I am sitting in one corner and he’s in another. God is still mostly silent on the big questions in my life. Really the only difference is a phrase: For I know the plans I have for you. Those words start one of the most horribly misused scriptures in the Bible. They were told to a people about to enter a generation of exile, and now used to tell college graduates that everything is going to be awesome. Yeah, no. For me, that phrase has become the new prayer that I say, whisper, shout, plead, offer, and clutch onto every day. I say it to remind myself that this silence, this Friday will end. And I say it to remind God that his story is all about Sunday.
Its Friday night. Our world is broken. We don’t know what Sunday will bring. Tonight we can feel forsaken; God’s strong enough to handle that.