Some years back, actually a lot of years back, I got caught up in a community controversy. Some surprising things were going on, some officials turned deaf ears to community concerns, and then two people I truly respected asked me to become spokesperson for a group to challenge the officials.
I did, and it was a wild time for a few months. It was also tense, and difficult, and we experienced the inevitable blowback. The attacks became bitter, and personal. At one point, the spokesperson was essentially abandoned. I felt deserted and left to dangle in the wind. It was a dark time, lightened only by a single voice of unexpected support – an elderly lady whom I had never met wrote a letter to our local newspaper.
Margaret Feinberg knows the sting of silence in far more personal terms than I do. She is standing in front of a mirror, staring at the scars left by a double mastectomy, and virtually no friend has called, written, left a note, said anything, provided support, held her. The group that had surrounded her and her husband seemed to have vanished.
She tells the story in Fight Back With Joy: Celebrate More. Regret Less. Stare Down Your Greatest Fears. The heart scars, she says, those scars of abandonment, hurt worse than the physical scars she was staring at.
She writes down names. And then she makes another list – the names of the people she had abandoned in an hour of need. She understands that the failing of her friends is her failing, too. And she understands that the most common reason for this abandonment is that people don’t know what to say, and so they hold back.
Jesus knew what this all-too-human failing of abandonment was like. Feinberg notes that of the 12 disciples who followed Jesus through good times and bad, those steadfast 12, one would betray him and 10 would hide in fear. Only one would be at the foot of the cross, the one who stood with the two Marys. Only one was there when Jesus drew his last breath and said “It is finished.” The rest hid.
We have all failed.
We have all been failed.
We know what abandonment is because it’s happened to us.
And we know what it is because we’ve done it.
Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been reading Fight Back with Joy. To see more posts on this chapter, “Life is Too Short Not to Do This,” please visit Jason at Connecting to Impact.
Photograph by Julie Gentry via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.