I made a big mistake, like Lot’s wife in the Bible. I should have kept my eyes down and headed briskly past the window and out of the school gates.
But I glanced back through the window. I thought I would catch sight of him already engaging with others, lost in the wonderful world of the primary classroom. I wanted reassurance that he was all right. I thought I wouldn’t be seen. Mistake! It tore at my heart. Dwarfed in his new grey uniform; tiny purple knees touching; white, agitated hands pressed tight into his groin, hunching his shoulders… my vulnerable four-year-old was standing alone in the centre of the hubbub, his face frozen with misery, his pleading eyes holding on to me through the glass and his mouth silently forming the words ‘Mummy, Mummy’ in slow motion. No twin brother by his side, either.
That first day at school happened over 30 years ago; it feels like this morning. People leave us. We learn to fear separation – and loneliness – from an early age.
Separated by a cross: God the Father and Jesus, his beloved and only Son. It was the lonely death that opened the door for us to a wonderful life of eternity with God. Did Jesus have to come? Did he have to be rejected by some of his earthly family and friends? Did he have to know how to cry at the death of a loved one? Did he have to be homeless, hated, betrayed, wrongly convicted? Did he have to be abandoned to suffer on that cross? The questions go on and on – and the answer is always yes, yes, yes… because we have a God who UNDERSTANDS us, who EMPATHISES with the bad stuff in life. HE CARES. Jesus came here to prove it.
God the Father did not stand at a distance, on the other side of the glass as it were, glance in on us and hurry away… he sent his precious Son, Jesus, who lived our pain for himself and longs to wrap us up in his love and help us through all this living. There is nothing you can challenge God about that he does not already feel for you himself.
Blind euphoria fills the smoky skies and the smell of fireworks drifts on the wind. Seconds of sparkle in wild celebration at the birth of a New Year. Gone in an instant. Not everyone welcomes the New Year. For some, it simply compounds their misery: the carpet of Time unrolls at their feet. It invites them – you – to tread down the pathway of pain, of separation, of unbearable loneliness for another twelve months.
This year, take God with you. Learn about Jesus, our Saviour; unlock your heart to him; invite him to walk with you. He said, ‘I am with you always’ (Matthew 28.20). Remember, that’s a promise.