Hold on loosely, but don’t let go…
That is a great song, isn’t it? If you are younger than thirty, you probably don’t remember it. I love that song but seem to be unable to practice the concept.
When I was a child my father left. When I say left, I don’t mean the every other weekend visitation, call a couple of times a week and buy big birthday presents type of left, I mean left. I would go months, sometimes years without hearing from him. He would send birthday cards during random months because he really didn’t know when my birthday was. Essentially, he abandoned his role as father, mentor and friend. He opted just to occasionally show up, stick his head in my life and then disappear again. I didn’t realize it until recently what an impact that had on me.
One incident stands out. I was about ten years old and it was October. Maybe that’s why I remembered it today, because up here in the mountains, the nip of fall is in the air. I am sitting on the front stoop of my house in Raleigh, waiting on my dad to make a promised visit to take me to the State Fair. He was supposed to be there by 8 a.m. to get an early start on the day, so I was waiting, on the porch, in my jacket, by 7 a.m. One hour passed, then another, then another. At 11 a.m. or so my father finally called my house, told my mother that something had come up and he wasn’t going to be able to make it. I don’t remember much about the rest of the day except I didn’t go to the fair and I spent most of the rest of the day alone. After that I didn’t hear from him until after Christmas.
I wait for people to leave. That is rather odd actually. For most people, they see people’s departures as a surprise. I anticipate it, to a fault. Actually, sometimes I’ve noticed that I actually help them to the door so I can control their departure. I keep people a safe distance away because if I let them get to close, their departure hurts all the more. It is easier to handle when people you keep at a distance leave because, well, you didn’t like them much anyway.
Jesus really messes this up for me. He reminds us that He will “never leave.” That is hard for me to grasp. I just have a hard time getting that God loves us so much that he wants to hang out with us, despite the baggage we carry and the burdens we bear. Despite past failing, pain and struggle, God won’t abandon us.
On of my favorite professors, Dr. Wm. Turner who teaches preaching at Duke Divinity School, once told me to look at the sermons I preach. Take a hard look, he advised, and there you will see the theological issues that you struggle with. The things that mold our lives, mold our proclamation. One of the themes that keeps reoccurring in my messages is that God will “never, no, not ever” abandon us. Kind of goes to Boehler’s advice to John Wesley, “preach faith till you have it. When you have it, preach it all the more.”
This morning I realized I was doing it again. Keeping folks at a safe distance. Not getting involved in the lives of others or letting them get involved with my life. I have lived here at the LJ for nine months and have no real friends here. I have acquaintances, folks I have a nodding relationship with, but nobody to call if I just wanted to talk. Guess I’ll have to walk out on that limb, start letting people in and not helping them to the door. This is going to be my challenge for the next few weeks asGod has begun working on me. I will let you know how it goes.
Thankfully I remain:
Lost in Grace,