Why have you forsaken me?: Amy McLaughlin [Retrieve Lament]

(You can read all of this week's stories of lament here.)

Jesus gave us a litany of last words as a Sufferer; we refer to them as the Seven Last Words of Christ. The deathbed words of the Suffering Servant provide a framework for the stories of lament I'll be sharing here this Holy Week.

I count it a high privilege to know -- at least in a small part -- the writers of the mourning stories I'll be sharing now through Holy Saturday. Their stories have helped form me in my understanding of suffering and I believe they could also encourage you too. Today's guest has walked with Brian and me through most of the joys and sorrows of the last seven years - as partners in a relational healing ministry and as beloved friends. In God's kindness, He led Amy and me to the same spiritual direction certification cohort without us even planning it that way. So, we continue to work and learn together from our respective homes in Austin and Bridgeport. Amy embodies what it means to be a wounded healer, and I'm grateful to her for share with us this Holy Week.

Would you read Amy's story with me, and listen with an open heart for any words Christ might be speaking to you?

   Quilt by Junko Oki ( source )


Quilt by Junko Oki (source)

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ’Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
— Matthew 27:46 (ESV)



by Amy McLaughlin

The gift came to me in a circuitous, even painful and confusing way. We were helping a Hurricane Harvey family entrenched in all levels of poverty. We were weary with the cycles of addiction, abuse and dependence in the family we were serving and had questioned whether we should have ever become involved. Then one day I brought a friend out with me to visit the family and to play with the kids. As we rode together, I shared with her a bit about my own hand-to-mouth childhood and about being raised by a single mom. She listened and then commented that I could relate to this family because of my story. This family’s situation was so stark that I simply hadn’t made the connection. As we were leaving that day, beautiful, blonde, three-year-old Bella became frantic and started screaming and banging the inside of the duplex door we had shut behind us. We drove away with the heaviness of Bella’s chaos.

Over the next week I began to unravel. I ached for Bella and felt the grip of my own three-year-old grief close around my throat. God seemed to be using us to love this family and the family to love me, for He ushered in a grief that He wanted me to embrace in a deeper, completely joined way. He wanted to be there with me then and now as I faced my own three-year-old panic.

It was November and my spiritual direction cohort gathered for training. I was half-way through a two-year program to earn a certificate in spiritual direction. I had greatly grieved and wrestled over the abandonment of my father numerous times but never before alone with the Lord in this way. Over the course of my training weekend, I was given three hours of silence for two afternoons. I'd just had rotator cuff surgery and knew I needed to stay inside and not venture out. As I sat with the wide window of green hills in front of me, the grief of Bella and then my own “banging the inside of a duplex door” loss rose in me. I fought it and reminded “it” that I had been over this numerous times. After some attempt to put it aside, I let it be and God invited me to grieve with Him, to see Him holding my bare-chested, diapered self then and my raw lonely self now. I lost time that afternoon. I only knew He was grieving with me as real as the closest of friend.  As the first day ended I thought maybe it was all out.

Afternoon two of silence began and I sat aware that I was not finished, that He had more for me.  Anger began to rise. In whatever ways I protected my Dad from my heartbroken reality then, and in whatever ways I still maintain much silence about the cost to me now, I began to unleash questions of my dad, then questions of my God. Questions like, how at the end of the day, Dad, could you actually walk away from your own flesh and blood? I have kids and that has only served to strengthen my question.

And Father, how did you arrive at the conclusion that the way this would play out would be good for my sister and me?  Why has it taken me so long? Why has it taken you so long? I felt as if God let me stand close and beat his chest with the depth of my pain. He did not waiver. He did not stop me. I felt I was to get it all out. And He was there when I settled. I didn’t have an answer. This experience became a sort of answer. A deep bonding happened between God and me, the one who dreamt me up back when He was casting stars into existence. The one who stayed close when my parents were reeling with their own brokenness. The one who honors me and delights in me and gives me all good things now as I step into my 50’s on this Easter morning!

To think a little abandoned blonde three-year-old, after years of insomnia and self referenced living could move into her 50’s with such an intimate knowing of her Father’s nearness is beyond what I can take in, certainly beyond what I or any of us deserve. But it is true and calming and full and life giving. And after this skin-on-skin grieving with such a good Father, I feel more a part of the family than I thought possible.

Psalm 73:28 says, “The nearness of God is my good.” From this place, I can pray for Bella.

Amy McLaughlin.JPG




Amy is wife to David, mother of two teenagers, Slater and Gracie, and a learner in the ways of grace, healing, waiting and trusting God. She directs a relational healing ministry at Christ Church Austin, she teaches, keeps her LPC license current and is in spiritual direction training.

Once, ritual lament would have been chanted; women would have been paid to beat their breasts and howl for you all night, when all is silent.
Where can we find such customs now? So many have long since disappeared or been disowned.

That’s what you had to come for: to retrieve the lament that we omitted.
— Ranier Maria Rilke, "Requiem For A Friend"

(You can read all of the Retrieve Lament stories from previous years here.)