“Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me” Psalm 27: 10 (NIV)
I had great parents; I can’t remember once feeling forsaken by them. While they were alive, I never felt like an orphan.
But, certainly, I’ve had many traumatic tremors of forsakenness.
I’m in my mid-60s. All of the players on the Detroit Tigers are younger than me. Life insurance salesmen have long ago thrown me into the “old age” bracket. When auditioning for a play, I’m easily type cast into a “eccentric old-codger” role. I no longer experience youthful lusts, only old aged lusts. I never used to read obituaries.
So why the laundry list? Do I think I’m the first obnoxious “boomer” to self-absorb through the aging process? Could it be my ego can’t handle the fact that I’ll never win a Pulitzer Prize, never hit a home run in the World Series, never make the cover of Rolling Stone, never play Broadway?
I’m sure part of the unsettledness can be traced to some uninvestigated fear of death. Still, I’ve come to believe that it’s more directly associated with a gnawing sense of under accomplishment, insignificance and anonymity—a kind of hovering “forsakenness.” Will it get worse as I get even older? How can I turn aside the increasing disillusionment, this embarrassing level of discontentedness?
In the midst of this wilderness of self-doubt and gnawing sense of forsakenness, I have come to rediscover the quiet grace of daily confessions of faith, confessions that bring some degree of context and light for the journey of second-guessing. They are biblical foundation stones for understanding where my face fits in the sea of seven billion faces, and what it means as a foot-shuffling follower of Christ to be prepared for death—confident that I will not be forsaken. The overarching text for the confession is the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. It is a three-part confession:
(1) Life is not ABSURD (though it certainly has seemingly absurd moments). A dominant presupposition and context for living in the early twenty-first century is the belief in life’s ultimate absurdity. For some it is a convenient vehicle for political and sexual exploitation, for others it is a curse of non-meaning that ultimately erases every accomplishment and virtuous breath. Woody Allen’s character in his film, Annie Hall, whistles in the dark after the end of his relationship with Annie. He states that even if their love had lasted both of their lifetimes, it still would have ended with their deaths. After that all the wonder, exhilaration, and beauty of a lifetime of faithful devotion would have been completely wiped away by the grave.
Yet to the Christian, faithfulness in our relationships matters. We confess to be eternal creatures whose capacity for creativity and an ability to make and keep promises is rooted in our being made in God’s image. Death is not the final scene in the film called our life.
(2) We are ACCONUNTABLE. To even imply to the secularist craftsman of our time that there is an ultimate moment of accountability and judgment before their Creator would only invoke a disengaging rolling of the eyes: “Oh, yeah, and one day there’ll be a Taco Bell on the moon.”
Yet the Christian, informed by biblical revelation about the “Judgment Seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10), recognizes that this belief must be demonstrated in all that they do. “What have you done with what you’ve been given?” is the inquiry of the Master. Every Christian must give an account--not based upon comparisons with Dorothy Sayers, G.K. Chesterton or Pat Robertson, but based upon the particular “garden spot” He has given each of us to cultivate (Genesis 2:15).
(3) We are not ANONYMOUS. The Christian travels on an obscure planet, in an obscure solar system around a second-rate star somewhere in the mass of a galaxy that is perhaps only one of millions of other galaxies. Besides that, most of us will never make the cover of American Theater, Christianity Today nor be reviewed in the New York Times. Late night talk shows won’t care about our new hot glue gun. Yet, despite all these public relations catastrophes, the Creator God of the millions of galaxies knows our name. He knows the numbers of hairs on our head, the rapidness with which they’re decreasing (in my case), and even the psychological peculiarities of our associated coping devices. Shockingly, strikingly, God knows us and receives us, though Hollywood and Wall Street do not.
Playwright Neil Simon’s Joe Benjamin, the contemporary Job character from his play, God’s Favorite, confesses, though covered with sores, “I am but an infinitesimal speck in the eyelid of the universe, but He still sees me!” Is this our confession even when covered with the sores of obscurity, failed or rejected dreams? The Creator and Lord of the Universe knows us!
This is not a confession that allows pious muscle flexing, nor allows for a smug sense of “sour grapes.” However, it does provide context for seeing the necessity of faithfulness and production even in the face of nihilistic temptations and the cult of celebrity. So, I’ll never win an American League batting title, a disappointing accident of history and genetics. I’ll still swallow hard on my next birthday. But God still knows me, calls me to Himself and reminds me that faithfulness matters.
Paul D. Patton, Ph.D., is a professor of communication and theater at Spring Arbor University in Michigan. He has graduate degrees in Guidance and Counseling, Religious Education, and Script and Screenwriting, and a doctorate in Communication with an emphasis in theater arts. He has been married to his wife Beth for over forty years and has three daughters (all actresses)—Jessica, Emily, and Grace, three sons-in-law, David, Joe, and Eric, and four grandsons, Caleb Rock, Logan Justice, Micah Blaze, and Miles Dean.