One of my earliest and most vivid childhood memories involves getting separated from my mom in a department store. She was looking at items, and I got bored and wandered down to a display at the end of the aisle that caught my attention.
After a little while, I looked back and didn’t recognize my mom in the crowd of people. I thought she’d left without me.
I got frantic. I remember suddenly feeling so alone and frightened in this big place with all these strangers. What will I do?
I started to cry.
In a flash, my mom heard me and came toward me with arms outstretched. Don’t be afraid, she said, wrapping me in a hug. I’m right here. Everything’s OK.
There have been many throughout my life that I’ve had that same feeling of being alone or lost in a big, scary world. It’s like being in the department store all over again.
At this time of year, many religious faiths reassure us that we’re never alone. They remind us to listen for that voice saying: I’m right here. Always.
It’s all OK
For example, Advent is a time of remembering that God is with us. Our attention is focused on incarnation – God living through us, with us and in us at this very moment to bring love, justice and healing to each other and our world.
God is right here. Everything is going to be OK.
For me, that’s perhaps the most challenging part of faith, trusting that our Parent is with us and caring for us in every moment.
It’s easy to feel that presence at some times: when you feel loved deeply by someone; when things in your life seem to be turning around; when you’re standing on a beach or looking up at the moon and stars and you feel so wonderfully small and yet so deeply grateful to be part of something so amazing.
Those transcendent moments remind us we’re not alone.
It’s the many difficult moments that distract us and sidetrack us. Life is full of challenging and often painful transitions. We lose a loved one. A job or a relationship ends. We wake up with a lump somewhere in our body. Someone whom we love deeply is struggling with some great challenge.
How often does it feel like you’ve been plunged into a whole new universe and you don’t know what to do? Nothing has prepared you for this. Everything has been turned upside-down and inside-out.
Those worrisome moments can swallow us up. Advent – the time of Emanuel, which means God with us – reminds us that we have loving company, outstretched arms that will get us through everything.
Never loses sight of us
We’re never lost or alone, even when we’re struggling to make sense of the latest unexpected twist in our lives. As Nadia Bolz-Weber puts it: “We want to go to God for answers, but sometimes what we get is God’s presence.”
The Creator of love and life is present in every tear of joy, and in every tear of pain. In every breath of relief, and in every breath of fear. In every moment of clarity, and in every moment of confusion.
We’ve been done a great disservice by those who portray God as an aloof and distant being who will seek us out only if we accept some somebody’s theological terms-and-conditions, including all the fine print regulating what you can and can’t do.
That’s definitely not the message.
The message is that we have a parent who reminds us we’re never really lost, but always found. A parent who wants nothing more than to wrap us in a divine hug and throw a wild party in celebration, no matter how prodigal or self-righteous we get.
Whenever we wander down the aisle and get frightened, God opens those divine arms and says: Don’t be afraid. I’m right here with you. Always.
Even when you lose sight of me, I never lose sight of you.