Do you ever feel alone? Really alone? Of course you do. Don't we all?
Michele Cushatt pokes the reality of presence into our aloneness.
When You Fear You're All Alone
By Michele Cushatt
Our time together should have been sweet. Only, it wasn't.
It began as an afternoon walk with my youngest three children. This was our daily ritual, my attempt at multitasking. Over the span of 30 minutes, I'd get a dose of Vitamin D and exercise. And my little ones could expend their extraordinary energy in the great outdoors-a far better alternative to the living room.
So, after slathering every inch of their exposed skin with SPF 500 sunscreen (I might exaggerate), we headed outside to savor the summer.
Everything was going splendidly. Until I turned a corner. And, from behind, I heard my boy let loose a scream that could split the sky.
Immediately I whipped around to see what was wrong. Surely he'd lost a limb. Faced a fire-breathing dragon. Was attacked by a poisonous army of rattlesnakes.
Alas, no. When I laid eyes on him, he wasn't bleeding. All of his appendages appeared intact. And there was not a single snake or dragon anywhere to be found.
Still, he remained inconsolable. Screaming, wailing.
Until the moment he saw me walking toward him. Then he settled, almost immediately.
"What in the world is wrong?" I asked him, more than a little confused.
He sniffled, wiped his eyes, took a breath. "I didn't know where you were."
What?! This made no sense to me.
"But I was right here, I've been walking with you the entire time!"
"I didn't know where you were." My boy said the same words again, as if that would clear up my confusion.
My little ones have a hard history. In their early years, before they joined our family, they experienced circumstances that would make your head spin and toes curl. Life hasn't been easy for them. And the thing they fear most is once again being left all alone.
On our walk, I couldn't have been more than twenty paces ahead. The oldest walked next to me, but the twins lagged behind to get a closer look at a bug on the path. Of course, I knew right where they were, and kept a close watch. There was no reason to be afraid.
Except that at some point I turned a corner in the path at the exact same moment my boy looked up to find me. And I was nowhere to be found. Close, but out of sight.
Sometimes this is what it feels like when I pray. I bend my knees at my office chair, and I pour out my heart to the God who claims to love me. But when I look up and try to find him, all I hear is silence.
I feel alone. And this scares me even more than the circumstance that led me to pray in the first place.
We can endure almost anything as long as we know we're not alone. We've all been wounded. Every single one of us carry the scars of relationships that didn't work, dreams that ended up disappointments, hope that turned dark.
None of us escapes this life unscathed. And behind all our pain sits a singular fear: The fear of being left all alone. Like my boy, we need to know someone is with us. Someone who is bigger than our dragons, more fierce than a den of snakes. Someone whose eye is always on us, even if we can't see him. Someone who will find us when we're lost, and always lead us back home.
We have that Someone. And although my prayers at times feel empty and God seems distant, today I'm reminding myself of my walk with my little boy. And how very close to him I was I along.
We may not see him, can't always feel him, but God is with us. Always.
"Never will I leave you; Never will I forsake you," Jesus said.
And when you and I believe him, when we bank on the promise of a with-us God, we don't need to fear what's just around the bend. We can trust he is with us, even to the end.
A storyteller at heart, Michele Cushatt writes and speaks on the necessity of perseverance, relationship, and faith in the hard places. A three-time tongue cancer survivor and mama to children "from hard places," Michele is a (reluctant) expert of pain, trauma and our deep human need for real connection. She lives in Colorado with her husband and their six children, ages 12 to 27. If you've ever questioned God's presence in the middle of your pain, order Michele's newest book Relentless: The Unshakeable Presence of a God Who Never Leaves today. He is with us.