August 2, 2013

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

God’s love is the constant in an ever-changing world

Patti LambSporty new backpack chock full of school supplies? Check.

“Big kid” sneakers with shoestrings instead of Velcro? Check.

One mom in disbelief that it’s time for her baby to start full-day kindergarten? Check.

Our 5-year-old daughter, Margaret, is officially ready to embark on her adventures in education. She is kindergarten-bound in less than a week, and she has excitedly been informing everyone who will hear her big news—including the deli manager at the grocery and random passers-by at the library.

Now that the first day of school is almost here, however, Margaret has begun to express a bit of apprehension. I caught on to her “kinder-jitters” when I suddenly couldn’t peel her off of my leg in the school supply aisle at Target. When I questioned her about the rapid onset of her clinginess, she looked up at me and said, “I’m scared of me without you.”

I relayed this “me without you” story to my friend, who came right over and presented me with a lovely book titled The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.

The book is about a young raccoon whose time has come to start school, although he doesn’t want to leave his mother and all that’s familiar. His mom imparts a family secret as she sends him off. She kisses the palm of his hand and tells him, “Whenever you feel lonely and need a little loving from home, just press your hand to your cheek.” Then, she assured him, he would feel the warmth and reassurance of her love.

Margaret liked the story. She enjoyed it so much that she asked me to read it three times in a row. I think the message sank in because when I tucked her in that night, she smiled and placed both hands on her cheeks.

My daughter isn’t the only one dealing with separation anxiety. I, too, fear change and facing new beginnings alone. I think we all do.

My thoughts turn to a young woman I know who recently summoned the courage to leave an unhealthy relationship. It was the best decision, but the loneliness she feels pains her. And I know a father who is nervously preparing to send his only son to college in a town 1,000 miles away. I can also think of a good friend who is treading down a new career path, and the learning curve is unsettling. Life is full of change and new chapters.

But God’s love is the constant in an ever-changing world, and the reality is that we don’t face any circumstance alone. In scripture, we are repeatedly reminded that God is with us. One of the Bible passages I find most comforting is similar to the reassurance provided in The Kissing Hand. The passage is from the Gospel of John when Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him, nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (Jn 14:16-18).

Restated in my daughter’s 5-year-old speak, it’s like God is saying to us, “Don’t be scared of ‘me without you.’ There is no such thing, silly.”

In times of uncertainty, we all have an advocate, a true companion who knows our every vulnerability and intricacy.

And he’s only a prayer away.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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