It’s probably the greatest fear of a chaperone on a school trip to leave a student behind. I was never one who wandered off on my own, probably because I, too, was anxious about being forgotten. But I’ve heard it happens. For instance, imagine touring Washington D.C. with your fellow 13 year old classmates. You stop to admire how large Lincoln really is at his memorial site, maybe even think a bit about what stories you heard about him in history class. You weren’t misbehaving, but because of your own wonder and curiosity, your group continues on without you.
Breaking away from your mental class lecture, you look around to find yourself alone. It starts with the moment of okay, they’re around here somewhere. Maybe your heart starts beating a little bit faster as your thoughts turn to muted panic. Groups travel in and out of your line of sight, but none of them look familiar. I had no cell phone at 13, so imagine if you will, you don’t either. Where am I? How will I get home? Remembering what your Mother taught you, however, you just sit down and wait. Someone is bound to come back for you eventually.
And as you wait there on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, with vast uncertainty about what the next moments would look like, you have the urge to move. You have the urge to fix it on your own. Maybe, you tell yourself, I remember how to get back. But in your intelligent 13 year old mind, you again recognise that would not be the smartest plan of action. Staying put is the right thing; waiting is not the easy thing.
I’m not a 13 year old student left at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. but this moment in life feels a lot like I have been. In my mind, we’ve done everything right that we could do right. We’re leaning into God, we’re trusting him with more each day. We’ve surrendered our plans and expectations. We’ve looked to him with wonder, recalling stories of his provision for other people. But in all of that, I’m looking around at our situation and see no familiar faces.
My chest is tight as our bank account drips its last drops to pay for this month’s bills. Dylan has taken on some temporary work, which I can truly celebrate. I hate to say that joy is short-lived but even with this work, it hasn’t really changed our situation. My mind is telling me to get the hell out of this place, to fix it, to conjure up a solution and risk my health and sanity to make everything okay again – to make it all comfortable. But I know that the only thing you can do when it feels like you’ve been left behind is to wait.
It sucks. It makes no sense to the human mind that is fully capable of figuring a way out. But in this moment, when Dylan, a talented, skilled, personable potential hire is sent senseless rejection letters from positions he’s absolutely qualified for, when the digital numbers in our bank account shrink before my eyes, when all I can do is surrender my pride to the government, asking them to help me pay for this baby to come into the world, all I can do is wait and cry out to God with every last breath, please don’t forget me here.
Day has turned to night, and the fear that no one is coming back for me lingers heavy over my heart. The truth of the matter is, it might be a while, but a Good Father doesn’t leave his kid waiting forever. If I believe that enough to say it to other friends who are struggling right now, I have to believe it for me too.
Maybe I shouldn’t be writing this. Maybe this post doesn’t offer much hope to anyone today. Maybe these words and the reality of the frustration I feel with God is better kept to myself. But I want you to know that from what I’ve seen God do in my past, despite my doubts, however many times I swear at him and tell him he’s wrong, no matter how many metaphorical punches I throw, he can take it. And he will come through. Probably at the last minute (which I am desperate to know why that’s his timing of choice), but he will.
Maybe this is just some encouragement for you today that it’s okay to get upset about where you’re at. It’s okay to wrestle and to cry a million tears, to admit you don’t trust and maybe even that you’re done trying to trust, to scream at heaven don’t forget me here! He can take it. In fact, I think God wants that more from us than the sugar-coated prayers, and the nice, pristine Christianese catch phrases. The whole point of every tense moment, every sorrow, and every joy alike is for us to be real about it, and know that God is willing and able to take the brunt of that realness.
I don’t know why bad things happen to good people. I don’t know why my family members can’t seem to catch a break. I don’t know why there is genocide, why millions of people are starving, why I get to have a roof over my head and someone else doesn’t. I don’t think that’s God showing his flaws. I think that’s humanity showing theirs: the unjustness of this world that we’ve been commissioned to take responsibility for. But in my trial, in my need here and now, I might blame God for it, but in the depths of my being, I know it’s not his fault. I know he’s here to be my comfort through it, not to be the magic genie that grants me every wish.
And maybe that’s what I need to see. The reality of our situation seems to have left me out in the cold, but God hasn’t. The sheer fact that I can cry to him and sense he’s listening, that I can throw punches and feel something taking the blow, that right now, having expressed all of this here to you, I actually feel lighter, I know I’m not alone.
Sitting on those steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the lights of the Washington Mall now glistening over the reflection pools, I’ve come to terms with my situation. Because someone is bound to come back for me. And sure enough, in their own muted panic, a kind face, having scoured the city for me, runs toward me with a sigh of relief concluding in an embrace. Everything is going to be okay, they say. It’s all going to be okay.