Sunday, May 16, 2010

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

I've been thinking a lot about the feeling of abandonment, and wondering why God would ask me to go through such a difficult time at this point of my journey. Why is this feeling of isolation, of being left all alone, a part of my cross? Isn't the normal everyday suffering of infertility enough?

And then I remembered the Gospel of Mark.

Mark is my favorite Gospel. When I was a junior in college, I took my first Religion class, entitled "Bible as Literature." I was prepared to fill out a yellow index card and drop the class before the first day, I was that convinced it would be Christian-bashing blasphemy. (I went to a VERY liberal New England college.) But I was so drawn to the name of the class- two of my very favorite subjects, Christianity and literature, tied into one. So I took a chance. And I'm so glad I did.

The course was taught by probably the only practicing Episcopalian professor on campus. He was not only a devout Christian himself, but he was also a brilliant professor, with a TON of knowledge on both the Old and New Testaments. After taking the class, I decided to pick up a Minor in Religion, and went on to do an Independent Study thesis with this professor in my final semester.

My thesis was a study of the WHY behind Jesus' crucifixion, suffering, and death. I drew upon several of the Old Testament books, but mostly concentrated on 4 areas of the New Testament: the letters of Paul, the gospels of John and Mark (SO TOTALLY DIFFERENT!!), and Hebrews. Have I mentioned that Hebrews, aside from the Gospel of Mark, is my FAVORITE book of the Bible?? If you have not read it, or haven't read it in a while, I urge you to read it tonight! It's so profound, yet so simplistic in language... it's like "The Dummies' Guide to Catholicism."

Back to Mark.

In studying Mark, both in the "Bible as Literature" course and for my thesis, I learned that there are many discrepancies between his gospel and the other 3. Discrepancies in language, discrepancies in settings, discrepancies in events. They are all VERY PURPOSEFUL. Mark's literary style is brief and to the point- he is definitely not one to elaborate with fluffy language or overexplain anything. Mark is a Gospel you need to read between the lines, unlike John. (My professor used to joke that John has a lot of "Jesus soliloquies," where Jesus would start out answering someone's question, and by the end of the chapter, you forget that anyone else is in the room! It's true! But I do love John, he's my 2nd favorite Gospel.)

One of the discrepancies in Mark's gospel is that NONE of Jesus' disciples are present at His crucifixion. None. He is left to die alone, without any of His friends. (The women were "looking on from a distance.") The only people close to Him as He was on the cross, dying, were the chief priests, the scribes, and the soldiers, all of whom mocked Him endlessly until His final breath. The revolutionaries crucified with Him "also kept abusing him."

This complete and total abandonment was a PART of Jesus' Passion. In fact, one can argue that it was a critical part, being so near to His death.

One of the major literary purposes for Jesus being left alone to die on the cross in Mark's gospel is so that when He cries out, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" (My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?) it makes sense. In invoking Psalm 22 at this time of His Passion, Jesus is not only making it abundantly clear that everything that has happened and everything that is happening is a fulfillment of scripture... He is also personally experiencing the feelings of abandonment and isolation that the writer of Psalm 22 is portraying. We all know and remember that one of those lines that is fulfilled is "they divide my garments among them; for my clothing they cast lots." But before that line are these lines: "scorned by everyone, despised by people," "All who see me mock me; they curl their lips and jeer; they shake their heads at me," "Many dogs surround me; a pack of evildoers closes in on me."

The Psalm opens with that sense of abandonment and confusion (why would God do this?)... but it ends with a proclamation of the goodness of God, praising His name now and forever more, trusting in His deliverance.

Mark's Jesus is showing that despite appearances, He is NOT alone, forsaken and abandoned by all, including His Father.

But even Mark's Jesus had to FEEL abandoned, FEEL alone, FEEL isolated.

It was a perfectly complete suffering that He took upon Himself. He had no comfort in the strength and support of loved ones close by. He had no comfort in knowing that anyone around Him knew just who He was (the centurion didn't figure it out until He had died). In His final minutes before death, Jesus endured an emotional suffering that may have surpassed the physical torture of His Passion.

And here again is another parallel between the cross that I embrace in my life, and Jesus' cross.

Here I am, feeling that everyone around me, particularly those I've relied on for support and strength for the past 2 years, has left me to suffer this cross alone.
I know that many of you still waiting for your blessing feel exactly the same way.

And so I hope that my analysis of the situation helps all of you, too.

I will go out on a limb and say that this part of our cross may very well be a foreshadowing of our Resurrection. After all, it was only hours before His death that Jesus was left alone. Could this mean that this is the final part of our cross, too?

No matter how much longer we are asked to carry our cross, we should view this time of isolation and abandonment as Jesus did in order to suffer completely and perfectly the way He showed us. Let us remember the way Psalm 22 flips on its head halfway through, to reveal the greatness (and nearness) of God, even when He seems furthest away:

"For God has not spurned or disdained
the misery of this poor wretch,
Did not turn away from me,
but heard me when I cried out."


[email protected] said...

I just posted last night about feeling so so left behind, it's funny that you posted this today. Thank you, this post has really brought a little light to a dark time. *hugs*

Chasing said...

Beautifully written post.

Kaitlin @ More Like Mary said...

This is a stunningly beautiful reflection. I'm going to need to read it again and again to let it really hit me. I hope you realize how much your example is helping me (and others!) I'm learning so much about how to suffer and how to offer it up from you. And not because you're necessarily great at it (I know it's so so hard for you) but because you keep trying. You are beautiful and I'm praying for you daily!

barbie said...

This is a beautiful reflection....

You stand so strong and dont' give up, and you'll be rewarded for your constant faith....

God Bless you.

Second Chances said...

TCIE, I think it'd be great if you led a little bible study for all of us. You are truly knowledgeable in an area where many of us are so not! Would you consider doing that?

Also, you have been in my prayers lately along with the other women still waiting. I pray you find comfort in Jesus' words in scripture. What a gift to us!!!

Thankful said...

I would just like to point out that you are so freaking smart. I know that from your posts (always poignant) and from meeting you. You are just such a great writer with amazing thoughts that always stir something in my brain.

prayerfuljourney said...

Very insightful reflection. Thank you for reminding me that Jesus was all alone at the time of his crucifixion...he felt abandoned...and we all know that Jesus has a happier ending after all of that our endings will be happy too. We will "rise" above our suffering. Wow. Truly profound. THat is one thing I love about this it brings me back to my faith! Thank you and God Bless!!!

JellyBelly said...

Oh TCIE, what a beautiful post!

You're right, I have definitely felt God's presence in the past couple of weeks when I've been at my lowest.

You've also reminded me that I need to read the gospel of Mark in its entirety. I took a Religious Ed course when I first started teaching and the instructor gave each of us a copy of Mark's gospel in scroll form. I've been meaning to read it forever!

Hebrews 11:1 said...

This is an amazing post and you are an amazing woman! You hit the nail on the head and have delved into what many of us have felt at some point or another. This is exactly how I felt in the hospital, and that gospel is exactly what I drew on. It's comforting to know that even Christ had these feelings of being so alone.

I once heard in a homily that we shouldn't fear hardship, because at the worst times in our lives, that's when we are closest to God.

The beauty of Christ's Resurrection is that He solidified the fact that, as long as our hearts seek Him, our suffering is temporary. Provided we choose Christ, we have a guarantee that no matter how great the suffering, joy exists beyond it.

mrsblondies said...

You always have such wonderful insights and this post is no exception. I second Second Chances suggestion that you lead us in a bible study (if you have time).

[email protected] said...

You are brilliant, insightful, instructive and beautiful inside and out! I agree with should start a Bible study!

Hey, my word verification is "prega" ... hmmmm!

Angela said...

I agree with all the others that this post is so insightful and really draws us into contemplating the Lord's passion in a deeper way. It does make me feel better to know that the Lord had to suffer alone, so he knows how I feel in having to deal with ttc. It's so neat how God draws uses others to focus your heart on what He wants you to hear b/c I had just been (randomly) pondering Psalm 22! And then I go and read this post! Thanks for diving into this.

... said...

I read this when you posted it and have just been reflecting on it some more. I guess what struck me is that we all have to feel that abandonment of others - the people we relied on - in order to have that total trust in the Lord, that recognition that we are never truly alone nor abandoned, for He is there and always was, but in the hecticness of our lives, He is often the last one to get our attention. When others are in our world, we tend to forget that (or at least I do), but in these darkest of hours and after we've asked the hardest questions do we come to realize His presence.

Very beautiful and thank you for this.

LifeHopes said...

I do think that infertility has a unique way of putting us on a cross. Want to crucify a faithful catholic woman with a vocation to motherhood? Make her barren and place her in a very, very fertile world.

While my husband has been a source of support, and so have the bloggers, and a few IRL friends, there have been many times when I have wept bitterly before Christ and begged Him for mercy. It is in these lowest moments of our lives that we are lifted up and exalted. When we turn to Him we are allowing Him to rescue us, even if only in that moment and in a mysterious and beautiful way by ministering to our souls.

While I cannot say what His plans are for you, I DO know that you are right where He wants you to be, constantly turning to Him, attempting to glean some meaning and comfort from Him, seeking His purpose for your life. He will reveal it to you. He IS revealing it to you, and His plans for you are perfect.

Shannon said...

I think you are unbelievably wise...
thank you, Jesus, for TCIE

Suzie-Q T-Pie said...

beautiful post. thank you :)

Anonymous said...

wow, thank you so much for writing all of that. It's a part of the Bible I am drawn to and yet don't understand, and I appreciate you writing about it.

I hope you will find yourself on the other side, into the resurrection, soon ...