When her dad sat her down to tell her he was leaving, she asked for answers. She thought if she would have been a better daughter, followed all of his rules, never talked back, maybe her dad would have wanted to stay. But instead, he walked away. She failed him, and he abandoned her.
When she was promised over and over again she would be getting that pink camera for Christmas, only to open every box and come up empty, she wondered what she had done wrong to have him break his promise. She failed him, and he disappointed her.
When the boy she had planned her future with told her he didn’t love her anymore, she asked why. But she already knew the answer. If only she had been a better girlfriend, he wouldn’t have found someone else. She failed him, and he abandoned her.
She was worthy of love and commitment only when she was perfect. When she wasn’t, someone else walked out of her life.
She lived in the midst of this lie for years. She exhausted herself trying to be perfect, and anxiously waited every time she messed up to see who would be the next to walk out. As if a crippling fear of failure wasn’t enough, failure, in her mind, had been linked to abandonment. Suddenly, she’s living life in the midst of TWO lies:
- Mistakes equal failure.
- Failure always leads to abandonment.
One of the biggest blessings of Lipscomb has been the opportunity to hear “real” people talk about their failures, their struggles, and how their life experiences have shaped their views and perceptions of God and who He is.
In our breakout women’s chapel the past two weeks, we have had a girl speaking on fears and how they interfere with our relationships. She started the first chapel by asking everyone to think of their biggest fear. Not spiders, or snakes, or darkness, but the more consuming fears like the unknown, the future, failure, or inadequacy. And once she asked this question, she began telling her story.
As is too common in our culture, Nonna came from a broken home. Not just a home torn by divorce, but a life that was left broken by a dad who told her he was leaving and didn’t feel compelled to continue pursuing his relationship with her. At the age of 11, she learned her dad was good at making promises and really bad at keeping them. He liked to say nice things and pretend he wanted to be a part of her life, but in reality, he had abandoned her. And Nonna, being a perfectionist, reasoned within herself that her dad chose to distance himself because of something she did. When he walked out, she felt like a failure, and the walls began being built around her.
She equated failure with abandonment early in her life and lived her life for years in that mindset. She was terrified to make a mistake. She spent hours worrying and doing her best to be perfect, and then beat herself up when she wasn’t. She learned not to trust people’s promises because they were merely “fluffy words with no meaning.” She relied on her own merit to be good enough to earn people’s commitment and honesty. As if she wasn’t worthy of love and commitment simply because of who she was- a person created in the very image of God.
For years she lived without acknowledging her fears. But when her aunt engaged her in some deep dialogue over the summer, she realized she had a problem. Not only were her fears crippling her own life, but she had created a distorted view of the God she said she loved.
In John 14, Jesus is explaining to His disciples that He will be leaving them soon. In John 13:36, Christ tells Peter “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.” But just like Nonna’s fear of failure and abandonment, the disciples shared similar fears. Suddenly, the disciples start to feel abandoned. Peter rejects the idea that he can follow Christ later, and asks why he can’t go now. “Lord, why can I not follow you now?”
In chapter 14, Jesus is continuing to make promises to His disciples. Promises that should provide comfort. “Let not your heart be troubled….I go to prepare a place for you…I will come again.” “He who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than theses he will do.” “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” “I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you.” “He who loves Me will be loved by My Father and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you…let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
SO many promises are made by Jesus in just one chapter, but the disciples seem to miss them. Instead, it’s like they are all frantically asking questions and trying to process the fact that He is leaving them. As humans, they were fearing abandonment. They didn’t care that they could go to Him eventually or that He was sending a helper for them, they simply wanted to be with Him. Now. And for as long as they were here on earth.
They feared what would happen if their leader left. Would they be sufficient to do the jobs at hand? They probably feared they wouldn’t be. Their fears blinded them from the promises Christ was making to them. Incredible promises. But they couldn’t let go of that idea of abandonment long enough to hear and trust His promises. They felt like Christ’s promises were being broken when He told them He was leaving. Their minds were so clouded by their feelings of abandonment and rejection that they couldn’t focus on His promises and trust they would be kept.
Like the disciples, we let fears cloud our perception of who God is. Because of broken promises in our own lives, we’re hesitant to fully trust the faithfulness of God and His promises. We limit the things He can do, because we’ve conditioned ourselves not to expect things from people when there’s a chance of disappointment. We’re so afraid of being let down that we try to do as much on our own as we can. Because time seems to have proved the only person we can truly trust is ourselves.
But our experiences with broken promises and disappointments all come from interactions with imperfect people. We are all broken. And broken people break promises.
But God is the perfect promise keeper. His promises are true, and they can be trusted.
The disciples were afraid because they didn’t fully understand who Christ was. They didn’t grasp His mission. Likewise, we can’t fully know who God is when we allow fear to cloud our faith.
The God who kept His promises to Israel is the same God we serve today. His promises are true, and they can be trusted.