These are said to be among Jesus' last words as he hung on the cross. It is the question that makes his life relevant to our own.
I have wondered recently about the tone of Jesus' cry. Was it the desperation of feeling alone? Was it a cry of confusion? Could it have been the deepest yearning to understand how it was that God had not forsaken him? The Gospels offer evidence that God had not left Jesus alone, even in his darkest hour.
The Gospels indicate Jesus' amazing ability, even after he was nailed to the cross, to reach beyond the pain and minister to those around him. Acknowledging the faithful few at the foot of the cross, he told his disciple John to take care of his mother. Overhearing the conversation of the two criminals hanging on the crosses next to his, Jesus commended the one who honored Jesus' innocence. Jesus told that desperate man that his recognition meant he was ready to meet Jesus in paradise.
Perhaps most remarkably, Jesus' time on the cross included a prayer of forgiveness for those who had participated in the mockery of his mission.
One message of the crucifixion is the Christly authority to love even at life's most desperate moments. Jesus proved that we don't have to wait until the fear is gone; we don't have to wait until all the problems are solved before we can give what we have to give, even if it seems very small.
The human mind, justifying its own limitations, continually argues: "I can't"; "I won't"; "I don't want to."
But what if that selfishness isn't our primal nature? What if we're designed by God to live and love beyond any limits?
This isn't another excuse to feel pressured, stretched beyond our capacity, or crushed in the intensity of human demands: To live love beyond the limits is to understand that the source of our freedom to love is not ourselves. The divine love of God is the only love that satisfies and heals, and we must begin to understand that our truest selfhood is the expression of this divine and infinite Love.
Think of the mothers and fathers who dry the tears of their children day or night. Think of the security officers at the airports who keep checking those countless pieces of luggage for potentially harmful items; the caregivers in nursing homes and hospitals around the world who don't always see the progress of their patients; the family members who continue to believe in their addicted relatives' freedom.
Where do those people get their tenacity? Even the artists who keep being drawn back to their canvases, who keep playing their scales and arpeggios, who keep learning new dance routines in hopes of future performance. How do they persist without having a guarantee?
It is the irresistible impulsion of divine Love loving them in a way that demands expression, despite obstacles, despite rejection, despite failure.
We have the luxury of looking at the crucifixion story through the lens of the magnificent resurrection. Somehow it's easier to take the evidence of Jesus' strength more seriously, knowing that he was going to pull out of it eventually. We are asked to face life without always knowing the outcome.
Or are we? Could it be that we can live with the same assurance of not being forsaken by our God? Is it possible that Jesus' resurrection is a promise of our own? When he came out of the tomb, the nail prints and spear-wound were still evident, yet he had experienced the love of God in a way that enabled him to persist in loving his disciples - despite their unfaithfulness, timidity, and despair.
The reason we can learn to live to love like that is because we are being loved like that. The God who is infinite, omnipresent, and omnipotent Love is with us and has not forsaken us.
I will never leave thee,
nor forsake thee.