I have been considering those of us who have experienced desertion. Perhaps it is a close friend or friends who have walked away and turned their backs on us. Or perhaps a spouse who has, without warning, walked out on your marriage.
The initial shock and pain is, of course, at its most intense in the moment. But my thoughts today are with those a bit further down the road – those who, having done all in their power to see a restoration of the relationship, have failed and still feel the hidden pain rise again to the surface at the mention of a name or place. You see no hope of resolution and are coming to the conclusion you never will. Things will never be the same – and the pain is becoming a permanent part of who you are.
I have been reading recently of the restoration of Peter after he so spectacular deserted Jesus. It is a wonderful story of hope. And yet for the one sheep who was Pater – there are ninety nine others who, as far as we know, were never restored. It is John who records of Jesus, after a certain teaching – “At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him.” John 6:66 [NLT]. And there is no evidence that their relationship with Jesus was ever restored. Can we doubt that on a human level such desertion must have caused Jesus great pain.
One of the human reactions to desertion is to seek some kind of retribution – and if not retribution then justification in that we are not seen as the one to blame. But none of these – even if obtained in some way, can ever take away the pain. So what are we to do as we suffer unjustly?
The only hope I can offer is to take you by the hand and stand with you once more at the foot of the cross. As we gaze upon the crucified One we see afresh the greatest vision of unjust suffering – the one who lays down his life, not only for his friends – but also his enemies and can even cry – “Father forgive”. This Jesus, deserted, not only by many of his followers but also most of his intimate friends becomes our only hope. As we, with Him, extend forgiveness towards those who have deserted and hurt us we, in a very small way, become one with him in his suffering. And it is as we commit ourselves to The Deserted One that we are given the grace and strength, in our pain, to face each new day with renewed hope.