The God Who Stays

There’s a song by Matthew West by this title that spoke to my heart on my worst day. I heard it again this morning and its lyrics just go straight to who I am, the core of me. I have had a fear of abandonment all my life. Fear is a stupid, huge ball of yuck that takes over everything.

A psychologist could probably look at the story of my life and diagnose the foundational abandonment that birthed my fear. It’s not that difficult to find. I was abandoned by my birth father as a very young child. It was my ground zero. A lot of changes and events for a small child that set the tone for the rest of my life. I don’t know why God made me with such an impressionable psyche, I just know He did. Would I be able to experience Him and His rescue of me without that? I don’t know.

I have had a habit of hiding as long as I can remember. Especially when I’ve done something I’m afraid will make someone angry. Or when I’m scared, afraid of failing. When I’m embarrassed or humiliated. I hide. I still feel it. I remember writing a post a couple of months ago dealing with a memory from my former life that made me want to hide. It was humiliating. I’ve felt it since too; when I’m overwhelmed, when things are just too hard, I want to run and hide. Close myself in my little cottage, shut the door, and hide where no one can get to me. I hid from God for many years. That’s what my rebellion was really doing. I was hiding. I turned my back on Him because I had failed, I was living in a way that I knew He didn’t approve of and had no intentions or even ability to change, so I hid. My “hiding” at it’s worst, at the end of my ability to endure something, takes the form of walking away. I walked away first because I knew He would walk away. It hurt less that way.

I’ve done that in relationships, friendships. Turned my back and walked away. Closed off my heart. I abandon because I’m afraid of being abandoned. It’s so much easier to deal with if I’m the one who makes the decision to walk away. The control is in my hands then. You can’t hurt me if I walk away. I can’t make you hurt me by my actions or inactions if I walk away.

I know what my hiding habit has done to me over the years. I’ve mastered the art of the transition from fear to bitterness and blame. “You did this; you made me walk away, it’s your fault. If you weren’t so strict, I wouldn’t have to hide from you and end the relationship.” I’ve also hidden from the hard things, from discussing a problem with someone with the end goal of fixing it. It wouldn’t do any good, there’s no point, I would think. So I hid it, stuffed it down, ignored it. Still a form of hiding. Still a form of abandoning. Still based in fear.

I think at the core of all of that is the belief that I’m just not worth the trouble. If someone abandoned me before I could do anything good or bad, worthwhile or useless, then there’s nothing I can do to keep someone from leaving me. I can’t control it. I can only hope, and (as I have written before) hope hurts.

Oh fear is such a monster. It has dogged me all my life. It is overwhelming when you begin to discover just how much fear governs you. I am 48 years old and if I stand and look back over my life, fear is all over it. Everywhere. Every event, circumstance, relationship, milestone is touched by fear.

I mentioned earlier that I heard the song “The God Who Stays” again this morning. If you haven’t heard it, let me share with you some of the lyrics:

If I were You I would've given up on me by now
I would have labeled me a lost cause
Cause I feel just like a lost cause

If I were You I would've turned around and walked away
I would've labeled me beyond repair
Cause I feel like I'm beyond repair

Lost cause. Beyond repair. Not worth the trouble. Not worth the time. Not fixable. Not usable. Abandon-able.

When you’ve been abandoned, you feel less. You feel damaged. Unlovable. I’ve thought before that there must be something about me that turns people off. I must love the wrong way. Feel the wrong way or too much or not enough. I just do it wrong; because if I didn’t, people wouldn’t leave me.

I used to hide every time I thought I let You down
I always thought I had to earn my way

I shared in another post my fears when Jesus called me back to Him. My fears that I would fail, that it wouldn’t work. “I’m afraid of disappointing You so I don’t want to connect too deeply because I’ll let You down when I fail.” I feared that He would wash His hands of me when I failed. Oh, I “knew” intellectually, based on years of church attendance and teaching, that the Bible says He never leaves us or forsakes us. But I feared that it was only true for certain people, the ones who did it right. Who checked all the boxes, followed all the rules, didn’t mess up over and over again like I did.

I have messed up since my returning. I have made some messes, ignored what He wants me to do or say. Been lazy and inattentive. I have messed up. But He’s still there.

You're the God who stays
You're the One who runs in my direction
When the whole world walks away
You're the God who stands
With wide open arms
And You tell me nothing I have ever done can separate my heart
From the God who stays

He loves me. He loves me when I’m doing what He wants and when I’m not. He loves me when I think I’m lovable and when I want to hide because I’m afraid I’m not. He loves me when I’m honest and when I’m not. He loves me when I’m smart and when I’m stupid. He loves me when I feel too much, when my emotions are all over the place, when I’m bitter and angry, when I’m turning cartwheels and when I’m sitting in the mud. He loves me when I do my dishes and when I let them sit for several days until I run out of coffee mugs. He loves me. Still and always.

It’s hard to sit back down in the fear of abandonment after being exposed to the quality of His love for me. I’ve tried. I’ve made some attempts, and halfway succeeded at times. But He just won’t let me get all the way there.

My shame can't separate
My guilt can't separate
My past can't separate
I'm Yours forever

He keeps telling me that over and over. In Romans 8, there’s a passage that is taking on new and deeper meaning for me. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” You know what that tells me? I can’t separate me from the love of Christ. Nothing I can do or neglect to do can separate me. He will love me for eternity, and it’s not based on anything that originates with me. It is because He loves. Unconditionally, perpetually, consistently, persistently. He loves.

My fear doesn’t stand a chance when confronted with His love. He will not abandon me. I am not unlovable. I am worth the trouble. He tells me this over and over and over. He loves me. He is the God Who Stays. If you have battled this fear, you can replace “me” and “I” with you. He will not abandon you. You are not unlovable. You are worth the trouble. You can’t separate yourself from the love of Christ. Period. No objection you can think of alters the truth. You cannot be separated from His love for you. Whether you accept it or not, it is there.

I pray that you will accept it. I know how hard that is. It’s scary and huge and terrifying. Hope hurts. But hope in Him will deliver. He is the God Who Stays.

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