The word evokes a myriad of emotions, doesn’t it? Some conjure up memories of a parent who exited the family prematurely, opting for a new life-partner. Some think of a dream job that evaporated into thin air. Then there’s that experience that left you feeling as if God were a million miles away. How about a world-changing idea that everyone on your team quickly dismissed? Maybe it’s a child who went morally AWOL and left you with a broken heart. How about a God who didn’t answer your most heartfelt prayers? I remember moments when the feeling of abandonment peaked--a best friend who found a new best friend, a girl who consumed his entire life at the tender age of 14. Then it was a father who walked out, reckoning I suppose, that the first half of his life was ruined so he would ruin ours too. And the professor who gave me an F on an exam I couldn’t take because I had to leave college for a week to go home and tend to a severely depressed, suicidal mother. What’s your abandonment story? I know you’ve already been thinking about it. You can’t talk about the subject without the inner doors of your heart (the ones you thought you had permanently shut), creaking eerily open. Interesting, this thing called abandonment. Interesting how it beats a well-worn path to a land called unforgiveness. Abandonment and unforgiveness are twin sisters, really, joined at the emotional hip. Ever get a “stuck feeler?” Let me explain. Stuck-feelers emerge from some of life’s extreme disappointments; traumatic experiences that leave internal bruises that seem unhealable. You try all the “medications”--positive self-talk, new adventures, relationships, over-spending on houses, cars and trinkets, etc.--but somehow the bruise is too deep. I see this sometimes with survivors of abuse. Their “feeler” (anger, shame, etc.) is “stuck” on an eight (on a scale of one- to-ten). Something comes along that touches those stuck feelings and bam!...they go from an eight to a ten almost immediately. Lots of wounded people (which includes most of us) have “stuck-feelers.” Angry over their woundedness, a life-experience (similar to the one that decimated them) comes along and they quickly come unhinged. Everyone in their radius experiences their unexpected rage--the driver in the next car, the clerk at the store, the significant-other, someone with a different political or spiritual viewpoint; just fill in the blank. To people with stuck feelers, emotional volatility seems to be interminably embedded in their lives. So what do we do about it? The Apostle of Love gives us some insight in 1 John 4:18 when he says,”...perfect love expels all fear.” This one verse changed my life. It doesn’t mean that you or I have to try harder to be loving (though that’s an intelligent choice); what it means is that GOD loves us perfectly, warts and all. It means that He is abandonment-averse. This is the message of Christmas--He came. Into our brokenness, into our fear, into our woundedness, into our desperation and loneliness--He came. And He stays. He befriends us constantly. He gets to know us and we get to know Him. And what we invariably experience...is unconditional love...His love...unflappable, unrelenting, determined and vast. And as we experience that love, albeit a little at a time, we are changed into something much superior to what we were. Have you ever been perfectly loved? Did you feel fear, or peace? Abandoned, or cherished? Left behind, or brought along? As I write this I’m diving deep into the well of words to try and explain the ultimate answer to abandonment. Here it is: It’s embracing what is TRUE about you...that you’re a King’s kid; a chosen one; a valued one; a cherished one. As such, you are guaranteed love, His love; the highest, most faithful, deepest and strongest love in the universe. Drink it in, dear one, everyday...please. It can change you forever. And guess what? Eventually that “stuck-feeler” will shrink, just like some front-yard snowman on a mild winter day. It’s true. It’s real. He came. He still does...just for YOU.