Sometimes I find myself in another state or country, alone, a stranger in a strange land, somewhat lost, not quite knowing what the next step is. I will be picked up eventually by someone I have never before met, and I will go off and do my thing.
But for a few brief moments a minor feeling of being abandoned takes over. It can be an eerie, scary sensation. The thought of being totally left alone, without backup or support, can be an off-putting experience. Perhaps we all go through this at times.
One movie which quite impacted me in this regard was Steven Spielberg’s 2001 film A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Without giving too much away (for those who have not yet seen it), it is about a young boy, David (really a robot) who fully bonds with his human mother. When she abandons him in the woods, he spends the remainder of his time frantically searching for this mother whom he (it) so deeply loves and misses.
For some reason this film really powerfully moves me, often having me in great bouts of tears. The idea of being abandoned, especially by the one who should love you the most, is excruciating to bear. Sadly it happens quite often in real life. Many people are the walking wounded, feeling abandoned, unloved, unwanted, orphaned.
For some this has actually happened, with parents gone missing for one reason or another. For others, it may be more an emotional, social, psychological or spiritual sense of abandonment. Regardless of how close one may be to one’s family, we may all have sensed this feeling at some point.
Marx tried to put this into a bigger picture, and famously spoke about alienation. Of course he got the cause wrong while getting the condition somewhat right. He put alienation all down to economics, the class struggle, the owners of the means of production, and so on.
He felt that if we can get the economics right (destroy the capitalists, liberate the working class, create a classless society, etc) we could create the New Man, and the sense of alienation and conflict would disappear. He was fundamentally wrong of course, since he did not go far enough in his analysis.
He was quite right that we are all in a state of alienation, but the root problem is much deeper. We are all ultimately alienated from our very life source – God himself. And because of this most fundamental alienation (brought about by sin and self-deification), we are alienated from everything else as well.
Thus in our fallen condition we are alienated from one another, from the world around us, and from ourselves as well. Broken, fractured and alienated lives are the only possible result of such a state of affairs. Thus we all find ourselves with a sense of abandonment.
But it is we who have abandoned God, not the other way around. He created us to have a close, personal love relationship with him. But we have all chosen to turn our back on him. We have snubbed his love, spurned his majesty, renounced his fatherhood, and rejected his deity.
Thus we all live in a constant state of abandonment and alienation. Sure, we have all found various ways to seek to cope with this situation, and try to get by. But there is only one way to overcome this alienation, and recover from this self-imposed abandonment.
That way has been made possible by God’s son, Jesus Christ. He came to restore us to a love relationship with our heavenly Father. The orphanhood and abandonment that so paralyses us and distorts who we are and who we were meant to be can be overcome by returning to God through Christ.
That is the real revolution that needs to take place. It is not capitalism or managers that prevent us from experiencing whole and complete lives. It is our sin and selfishness which is keeping us from being whole people. It is sin which is keeping society fractured and individuals frustrated.
The longing to go home, to return to our place of origin, has been noted by many. Writers, artists, singers and poets have all concentrated on this theme. English writer and Christian apologist G.K. Chesterton did a great job of describing it in the beginning of his wonderful book, Orthodoxy.
He begins his 1908 classic by describing an Englishman who went on a sailing adventure to discover new lands. He sets out, but eventually gets disorientated in some storms, but finally spies land. He is exhilarated at the prospect of discovering new territory, yet seems somehow to be on quite familiar ground.
And he is, since he has in fact ended up returning to England. Chesterton presents this as a picture of our spiritual journey back to Christ. On the one hand it is a glorious, new and exciting adventure. But on the other hand, we are simply returning home – just where we were always meant to be.
That is indeed how life is. We have all become lost, disorientated, alienated and orphaned. We seem abandoned and aimless. Yet when we come back to God, we come back to where we were supposed to be all along. We are no longer lost, abandoned or alienated.
We are found, welcomed back into God’s family, and made friends again. The sense of being a cosmic orphan, of being spiritually abandoned, is replaced with joy, fellowship, acceptance and above all, a grand sense of homecoming. ‘I once was lost, but now am found’.
Every one of us, because we are made in God’s image, and intended to be in right relationship with Him, has a deep father-hunger in our souls. We either fill that with God himself, or we will spend our lives looking for cheap and ultimately unfulfilling substitutes.
Our cosmic sense of abandonment can readily be dealt with, if we let God have his way. But if we don’t then there will one day be a genuine case of abandonment – divine abandonment. He will not strive with us forever, and he will not keep open his arms of love forever.
But while he does, let us all run to them. It is the safest, warmest and most tender place to be. But if we reject those open arms of love, then we decide our fate – an eternity of abandonment and alienation. The perpetual grief, emptiness, longing and searching which young David felt in the film AI will be experienced forever by those who reject the outstretched, nail-pierced hands of Christ.
The choice is ours. Let us choose wisely (although it seems so very obvious which option to choose).