When I see lone children that have been orphaned or abandoned I struggle to understand how this could happen. Even more, how could someone allow this to happen? I think I find it so difficult because I know how important the love of my parents has been for me, shaping me and moulding me. There are fewer things sadder in the world than people not experiencing love. I have been contemplating this for a while and believe I finally understand the notion of God as Father.
When Jesus came to Earth he had to experience separation from God, his Father. This was clear especially at the ultimate separation on the cross. In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus cried: "Abba, Father… everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." Mark 14:36
When we say "Father!" in referring to God it is not just jargon or archaic doctrine, but a real expression of our relationship with God. Here Jesus refers to God as Abba, an affectionate and close relational term for father. Like a child, Jesus pleads not to be torn away from the comfort and joy in the love and protection of the Father.
It was on the cross that Jesus had to truly experience separation from the Father. His separation is clearly expressed in the cry: " '… Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?'â€" which means, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Mark 15:34
Jesus took upon the ultimate punishment of sin, which is complete separation from the love of God. What is Hell if it is not the eternal separation from the love of God?
God is not just the Father of Jesus, but he is my Father. Unlike Jesus I never have to experience complete separation from the love of God, Jesus has taken that punishment from/for me already. So while I may be separated from the love and care of my closest friends and family, nothing can separate me from the love of God, my Heavenly Father.
"For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom 8:38-39)
By leaving behind people when I study in Oxford for a year I will no doubt be saddened. But this is but a small cross to bear in order to help others 'mentally' who may hopefully eventually experience the love of our Father. This separation can be borne because I never need be separated from God, whose abounding love is everywhere. I never need to be torn away from his grasp like an orphaned child.
So much can be taken away from us, by choice or force. There will always be times when we can no longer be close to those whose love sustains us. If we rely solely on the love of others we cannot live a complete life, because there can always be a divide and the love cannot be complete. Thus it is important that we find the sustenance of love not just from earthly persons, but from our heavenly Father who is everywhere and whose embrace we never have to leave.
Nathanael Yates from Perth, Western Australia, is an award winning young scientist who has won a scholarship to Oxford for 12 months as from October 2011.