Day 22: Divine Divorce
My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Psalm 22:1 (English)
Forsaken – If you want to understand the depth of David’s cry, you must know something about the verb he chooses. ‘Azav has a special history; a history that colors this opening line in lampblack.
The first time we see ‘azav in Scripture is in Genesis 2:24, a verse that is at polar opposites from David’s cry. “For this reason, a man shall leave,” is really the verb “forsake.” A man shall forsake, abandon, separate from his parents in order to cling, attach, and join with his wife. There is a price to pay to enter into a new union, but this “forsaking” is well worth it.
Marriage is the human symbol of God’s intended intimacy for our divine relationship. David certainly must have had this joyful union in mind when he used the same verb to express a forsaking that leaves us empty. The equation is not balanced. Instead of forsake resulting in cling, we are left at the altar. The intended spouse does not arrive. At the last moment, God seems to have chosen divorce rather than marriage. There will be no celebration, no “deer of the dawn,” because the wedding has been called off. What should have been a marriage made in heaven has become a separation straight from hell.
Ingmar Bergman’s film Cries and Whispers chronicles the life of a minister who no longer experiences God’s presence. Asked to pray for a dying woman, he offers his plea but confides that his prayer hits a lead ceiling. There is no answer. God has forsaken men. As Leonardo DiCaprio said in Blood Diamond, “God left Africa a long time ago.” There are certainly days when we find ourselves in the dark corners of the universe, wondering where the God of grace has gone. This is a time for a genuine theology of emotions. Intellectual propositions cannot touch the despair of feeling that our deepest desire for intimate union remains unquenched. Something is wrong with the world, and we are powerless to fix it. Unless God arrives in all His emotional glory, our lives are as unfulfilled as the one left standing at the altar. When love fails, the world falls. This is the message of Ecclesiastes.
A theology of emotions must begin with pain, the universal language of all human beings. If your version of praise and worship skirts the real cries of shattered souls, then you live an anemic Christianity. Your faith will not stand up to the deepest questions. If God is to be my truly intimate partner, the lover of my soul, then He must come to me when I am overwhelmed with grief, desperate, and alone. I need a God Who feels what I feel; a divine spouse Who knows the darkness that wants to drown me. I need the equation balanced. Forsake must become cling.