One of the more interesting sections in all of Scripture is some of Jesus’ final words, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” Peter Rollins describes this as divine abandonment – the moment when God abandons God. As I have reread many of the Easter passages this week. I am struck by how lonely Jesus must have been during his final week.
As Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, people greeted him like a conquering king. Jesus knew he had come to die and within a week some of these same people would be shouting “crucify him.” In the upper room, Jesus’ disciples thought they were enjoying another Passover meal together. Jesus was sharing some final moments with his closest friends who didn’t have a clue. What emotions was Jesus experiencing as he sat around the table? What was he thinking as he washed the disciples’ feet? In the garden Jesus asks his friends to pray with him and these friends choose sleep instead. During Jesus’ trial his best friend denies him three times.
Loneliness has to be one of the most painful of all human experiences. I am an extreme introvert. I am good at being alone, but being alone is different than loneliness and loneliness is not fun. Henri Nouwen describes it like the Grand Canyon – a deep incision in the surface of our existence.
Why is the call to Christian leadership and ministry also a call to loneliness? This is the irony of ministry – we call people to community, mutuality and interdependence but find ourselves on the outside looking in.
In a strange sort of way it is the loneliness of ministry that opens up a space for community, support and unconditional love. It is in our loneliness that we become most aware of our need for each other. This dependence on each other is what builds the family of God.