In three days, I will kiss my youngest children goodbye and begin the long journey to Rwanda. Excitement for this trip cannot negate the pain of separation. As the hour approaches, dread grows.
I’ve done this before. I know how hard it is. The memory alone almost convinced me not to sign on. The memory, and this haunting question:
What if I never come back?
Worrier, or Realist?
This is a familiar question. I don’t reserve it for times I’m voluntarily climbing aboard a bundle of aluminum and hovering 36,000 feet above the earth for 13 hours straight. I ask it every time I go out alone for groceries, or leave the kids home with Tim while I exercise.
Does this make me a worrier, or a realist?
I’ve dealt with my share of irrational fears. Correction: I currently am dealing with my share of irrational fears (although by God’s grace my mental state is far healthier than it once was). That being said, I don’t think this is one of them.
Tomorrow isn’t a guarantee. There, I said it. I’ve avoided that truth for most of my adult life, and it’s been a long, hard road getting to a place where I can broach the subject. Along the way I’ve discovered something:
Questions beginning with “what if” are never as important as how you respond to them.
Tell Yourself the Truth
In battling various fears, I’ve discovered the importance of scripts. If you don’t know, scripts are lists of truth statements addressing the root of whatever fear is attempting to cripple you. In my case, it’s a multifaceted fear of death:
- What if I don’t come back, and my children suffer the loss of their mother?
- What if something happens to my children while I’m gone, and this goodbye hug is the last time I hold them?
These are dark, debilitating questions, and I know some of you have asked them. How do we respond?
We have to tell ourselves the truth. That’s where my script comes in. I preach it to myself, and though it’s taken years of God kneading these truths into my heart, I’m finally finding peace in meditating upon them.
“What If I Never Come Back?” A Response
All the days ordained for me, and for my children, were written in our Father’s book before one of them came to be. Worrying about tomorrow (or the lack of a tomorrow) will not add a single hour to my life, or anyone else’s.
God is with me, and with my children. He hems us in, behind and before, and lays His hand upon us. When I rise on the wings of dawn and settle on the far side of the sea, He is with me, even as He stays with them. Not even a sparrow can fall to the ground without Him knowing it, so there’s no way anything will happen to me or the children outside of His knowledge and power.
That doesn’t mean no harm will come. God’s thoughts and ways are higher than mine. I cannot fathom His wisdom or understanding, but I can trust that His will is good, pleasing, and perfect. And that whatever happens, He has the power and a plan to use even our suffering for our good. He has a purpose for it, and for us.
Because He is good. And sovereign. And faithful. And His love for me and my children is far greater than any distance or danger this journey will bring.
With these truths in mind, I will say my goodbyes on Monday. And I will tell my children what my father-in-law told our family just before his recent heart surgery: “God numbered our days from the creation of the world. Tomorrow is no different than any other day.” Amen, Dad.
Peace be with you, friends.