The Grip of Abandonment

I can still remember it as clear as if it happened yesterday.  The day my father walked out, 18 or so years ago.

I remember him walking up to my brother and me and sitting us down and telling us that he was leaving.  That we’d still get to see him, that he still was our father, and so on and so on.  It took about 3 minutes for him to tell us, pick up his suitcase, and walk out the door.

It wasn’t a surprise to me when it happened.  Kids aren’t dumb, they know when things are off between their parents.  And at the time, I was actually relieved.  That was less yelling that I was going to have to hear around the home.

And I was never super close to my father anyway, and he was often working many days on the oil field, so by now seeing him every other weekend it would be about the same as I was already seeing him.  Right?  Right?

Little did I know the effect that would have on me for years to come.  Going through High School was rough without my father present.  He couldn’t come to my tennis matches, he never saw my extracurricular activities, he didn’t know my teachers, didn’t know my friends, didn’t really even know me.

But I covered the pain.  I told myself it was better this way.

As I grew older and did a lot of soul searching, I learned something about myself in my early 20s.  I learned that I struggled with abandonment issues.  I was terrified that people only entered my life to then find a way to conveniently leave it again, and to leave me standing with the pieces.

I blamed myself.  I blamed God.  I tried to place the blame anywhere.  Tried desperately to figure out what was so terrible about me that even my own father would walk out and leave.

And the funniest part is, that I didn’t begin to feel that way until I got older.

But I share all of this to say that as I work with children, especially those from broken homes, I see the fear of abandonment in their eyes.  I see them lash out at others as if to say “If I can make you angry enough, you’ll abandon me too”.

I sit with kids on a daily basis and hear their struggles.  Today alone I sat along side a 5th grade boy and just cried with him as he talked about his mother walking out again.

So many of our students come to us with pain.  Sometimes it’s pain they can identify and articulate, but often times it’s such an intense pain that they can’t tell you where it’s coming from.

To this day I still struggle with abandonment fears.  Will this friend still be friends with me when they know this?  Will that person still love me when I do this?  Will I still hold importance in this person’s life when I lash out like this?  And yes, I even wonder some days, in my darkest moments, when God will abandon me as well.

I have a faith that I’ve grown in for years, and I know I have a Father who deeply and desperately loves me and will never abandon me.  One of my favorite lines from a song is “there are no strangers, there are no outcasts, there are no orphans of God”.

And that’s why I come to work every day.  That’s why I love teaching.  Because I get the opportunity to walk up to kids every day and say “I’m here.  I’m not going anywhere.  And nothing you can say, nothing you can do will ever make me not come back tomorrow and love you all over again”.

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