Separation Anxiety

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

I grew up in a house so small that if you removed all the walls and made one room, it would look like a large living room in Beverly Hills. My sister’s bedroom door was just across the hall from my parents, and my door was next to my sister’s. One of my bedroom walls buffeted the living room, another wall sat across the hall from the kitchen. And although I had the ideal location for eavesdropping on conversations happening in any room, I grumpily inforced a noise ordinance after quiet hours.

Despite the close quarters, I had this fear as a child, living in earthquake-prone Seattle, that I would be asleep in my bedroom at night and wake up to find that our house had split, and my parents would be floating in one direction on their bedroom-island, and I would be floating in another direction.We would be forever separated. I would never see them again. It doesn’t make any sense, and even at the time, my young mind knew it was science fiction, like a lost manuscript of a Madeleine L’Engle  or C.S. Lewis book. Perhaps floating off on part of your house is a way to get back to Narnia.

My malady was just plain separation anxiety. I didn’t like to spend the night at friend’s houses, and I told my parents (when in middle school) I was never leaving, not even for college. I would live with them forever. Of course, I did end up going to college (only 300 miles away). And I eventually moved 2000 miles away!

Don’t get excited at the thought that I conquered this separation thing and will clue you in to three quick steps. I still have separation anxiety. It manifests differently now as an adult. I fear being separated from my routine. I don’t like sleeping in hotels or other strange places. I fear change. I’m already cringing at my daughter starting kindergarten next fall. In new social situations my stomach ties in knots and I want my “security blanket” (husband) near by.

Interestingly, God knows all about separation anxiety, and anticipated the separation issues that would haunt his people Israel. When he promised, “I will never leave you,” they were about to embark on a huge conquer-the-promised-land campaign. They were about to go into a strange place, fight nations bigger and stronger than them, trusting only in the Lord’s battle plans (plans like crossing a river during flood stage and marching circles in silence).

Year later, after Jesus had returned to heaven, an early church pastor reminds his congregants of that Deuteronomy promise, “I will never leave you” (Hebrews 13:5). The campaign this time was the start-up of the church – followers of Jesus uniting together to serve him and advance his kingdom in the face of persecution and external oppression.

“I will never leave you” is a relevant promise no matter if you are ancient Israel, the early church, a little girl, or a young separation-anxiety-suffering-mom (like me). Coming from a faithful God, this promise is as done as burnt toast.

“I will never leave you” is also retroactive. So if you look back at those moments in your life during which you were sure Jesus was not there (or embarrassingly hoping he wasn’t), he still had not left you. He was there. He really wanted you to know it so He could show you His grace. And He wants you to know it now, and to let His current grace flow back on those memories.

How does this apply to you? Perhaps your separation anxiety stems from an unawareness of his presence. Or perhaps you doubt the faithfulness of his presence. If he is faithful to forgive sin and faithful to love, then we can trust he is faithful to be with us.

Write this down, “I will never leave you,” and post it some place where separation anxiety slips in, perhaps by your bed so that you can remember He’ll still be there in the morning.

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