Reflections on separation anxiety

We just completed a week of Vacation Bible School at our church. I had the joy of hanging out with twenty preschoolers every night for five days. Some people might think that was more punishment than privilege, but I sincerely had a blast. I seldom get the chance to be involved with the little folks and so for me it was a delightful change of pace.

One of the little fellows in our group had some difficulty letting his mom out of sight. Every time she moved away from him he lunged for her and clung tightly to her hand. At least at the beginning of the week anyway. As the days wore on and he continued to come he still kept a close eye on mom, but he loosened his grip somewhat and enjoyed the rambunctious preschool fun we had planned for the group with a bit more independence and confidence.

Watching mom and her little shadow brought back some memories for me. My third child, a boy, was extremely clingy. There was a season that may have lasted a year or two during those tender preschool years when he seldom left my side. As soon as I tried to deliver him to a Sunday school teacher or babysitter he threw a proverbial fit. Separation anxiety they call it. This phenomenon can try the patience of the most doting mother and yet most children outgrow it quickly and never look back to those needy days.

I have been reflecting on this and I wonder if we dont all have some separation anxiety built in to who we are? A child develops this attachment to a primary individual (often a mother) who is his source of security and comfort and provision. Whenever the connection between these two becomes threatened, the dependent child feels a sense of fear and anxiety, often resulting in fussing, crying and clinging desperately for reassurance that Mommy will be right back or else stay there. Maybe we dont recognize it in our own lives, but I believe God has actually built into each one of us a type of instinctive separation anxiety trigger that senses when we are separated from His presence.

Many people I believe experience an awareness that they are separated from God. They feel distant from him and experience a loss of fellowship with him, or wonder if it is even possible to know God in a personal way at all. I think that is the Separation Anxiety response he has built into each one of us. You see, God wants to be to us what that mom is to her little child. He would like nothing more than for you and me to look at him as our primary source of security, comfort and provision. So when we begin to question where God is and ask why he seems so far away I think that is partly because he made us to ask those questions. He wants us to sense that distance so that we create a fuss and cling tightly to him and seek that close relationship from our hearts.

I know that doesnt always happen. I recognize that some people actually avoid God and shut him out of their lives. They feel like God is distant and missing from their lives but instead of running toward him, they snub him and turn away. Maybe Im being presumptuous, but I think that grieves his heart. He really enjoys when we reach out to him and approach him with sincere humility. He never turns away from the simplest cry of one of his kids. He reassures us that hes there and hes not leaving any time soon.

What we need to do in this process is to make certain we havent created barriers such as willful sin or pride that may be the cause of the separation anxiety. If you feel like God is far from you, its time to cry out, examine your heart and restore that sweet fellowship. Let the separation anxiety have a positive outcome in your life.

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