Hummingbirds keep us company throughout the spring, summer and early fall. And then they leave us for their long trips south.
A woman writes to Dear Abby that her long-time friend has left their relationship and won’t tell her why. And now, the writer says, she’s jittery about her other friendships, wondering if they will end abruptly and without explanation. It happens so frequently now that we have a word for it — ghosting.
Abandonment: It’s a terrible thing, a fear many of us have. Worry that it might happen triggers anxiety, insecurity. And when it happens, when we are left, we feel bereft, alone, forlorn. Whether it’s when a friend leaves our relationship without telling us why, someone we love leaves us through death or if it happens in a different way.
Jesus said to his disciples: “I will not leave you orphaned.”
As Jesus’ crucifixion loomed, he clearly understood that the disciples were experiencing that fear of abandonment. He who had been their leader and their friend, turning their lives and the state of the world up side down, showing them love unequalled, explained to them that in a little while the world would not see him, preparing them for his death and what would happen after that.
Whatever the circumstances, abandonment is a primal fear shared by most if not all people. I certainly know that fear intimately.
In our elementary school, we had midterm exams in the fifth grade – the fifth grade! On the Sunday afternoon before the week of the exams, my family went bicycling. That night, I had Mount Everest to climb in terms of material to cover for the test. The anticipation of that work hung over me during the entire outing.
That night, my parents went out to an engagement – they did not realize how great a weight studying for those exams was for me. I don’t remember telling them how I was feeling. I can still remember, though, after they left, I was bereft. Overwhelmed. The burden of the task was suffocating. I’ve never forgotten that night and the way I felt as I began to go over the reading and notes for the exam.
Abandonment hovers like a specter, visiting fear on us, and when it actually happens, leaving us forlorn and afraid. It’s like shattered glass in our spirit, sharp splinters, stabbing our serenity. It can affect our relationships with each other, with ourselves and with God. But, Jesus’ long arms and mighty words reach out to us through the mists of that specter, reassuring us that we will not be abandoned, we will not be left alone. Jesus says to us just as he said to his disciples: “I am coming to you.”
Recently, we hung the hummingbird feeder in its regular place on the deck, and within hours, we had our first return customer. They left, and they’ve come back, bringing with them their flurry of wings and bright colors. Through all of our lives, lives that abandonment touches in one way or another, Jesus assures us that he will not leave us orphaned, that he is coming for us, sending his Advocate to keep us company, to guide us, console and challenge us. And that never changes. Jesus promised that the Advocate – the Holy Spirit – will be with us forever.
And just during the last couple of weeks, more healing has come to me, healing that I believe came directly from God. It began with a dream and went from there. It smoothed the broken-glass edges in my spirit, and they no longer threaten my peace and contentment. Because of Jesus’ promise I know that all of us can look forward to more healing, throughout our lives. It may not come all at once, it’s not necessarily linear – we turn a corner, and we’re healed. It’s more like a spiral staircase — we round a corner, and we’re in a new place. And a little later on we round another corner, and the healing builds on itself. Until finally, we with the hummingbirds wing our way to that place where God will give us rest, that place “where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting,”* that place where we will be abandoned and bereft no more.
Hummingbird illustration from Ernst Haeckel’s Kunstformen der Natur (1899)
* Quote above from the Book of Common Prayer, page 499