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Good Friday: Pondering the Meaning of ‘Forsaken’

Good Friday is an amazing day, a terrifying day, and a day full of conversion. Somewhere along my own faith journey I became obsessed with the verse “Father, Father, why have you forsaken me?”

When I started at Yale Divinity School, I was a student in love with the Old Testament. My journey to and through Yale was “decidedly” one of strict academic pursuit, if you had asked me. And then, a few years after I graduated, this verse kept entering my head. It was a strange meditation that would strike me at random moments.

 “Father, Father, why have you forsaken me?” North Shore Sunrise, Kauai
I would wrack my brain over what this meant. Why would a dying savior yell this out to his Father, our God. Why? What would cause the Son to question his Parent? When and Why and How would someone feel … forsaken?

I know now that that popular theology says that this is a moment when Jesus feels abandoned by God. Left, dying, alone. Certainly this is one of the great human fears.

And I’ll admit that my dance and meditation with this verse started shortly after I was divorced. Perhaps somewhere I had started to understand abandonment. That even when two souls enter in to something with the best of intentions, knowing they are making a sacred vow, that they can realize they are doing more harm than good for each other. I think somewhere along the walk towards a divorce, I felt I had let down God, I’d abandoned my promise to stand by this other human. That human relationship did not work, and finally I realized that one of the choices was to walk away. For both of us to abandon the relationship.

As I dug deeper though, I have come to think of Jesus’ cry as one of true unity with God. Not that He felt pushed away, but rather, in that moment He was simultaneously granted the knowledge of every human heart, the good, the bad, the pure, the evil, all of it. In one breath, He realized what all of humanity is and was capable of, and in one moment, He wondered what in the world He had gotten Himself in to. Not abandoned, but unified. All knowing, all in one moment.

Sure there would be anguish, and there would be a sense of the forlorn. Our Jesus was in the process of becoming The Christ, as He died. He had lived as a human, and was dying as a human. He had seen what humanity was capable of, even amongst his dearest companions. And surely, even though He knew he was to fulfill the prophecy there were moments in His dying that could not have ever been comprehended until He lived them.

This is all part of the conversion. For us, for our hearts, for our journey with our God. This one verse contains the mystery of Jesus for me. That from time to time, we will each feel forlorn, overwhelmed, perhaps abandoned. We may even call out to our God, questioning, crying, desperate – “God, why have you forsaken ME?” It is part of the human spirit, and even God’s Son felt this, knew that we felt this. And God loved us so much that he sent his own Son to experience it as we experience it, to feel what we have felt, to understand us as only a human could.

After spending awhile with this line (which is found in two places: Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34), I found a new fascination with a poem by the Persian poet, Hafiz. While Hafiz is not Christian, his words seem to fit so closely with my new understanding of Jesus’ cry. A cry that acknowledges the broken-ness of humanity, but in the same breath admits our need for God’s loving presence in our lives.

My Eyes so Soft

Don’t surrender your loneliness so quickly
let it cut more deep.

Let it ferment and season you
as few human or even divine ingredients can

Something missing in my heart tonight
has made my eyes so soft
my voice so tender
my need of God absolutely clear.


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