The doctor says that at about 6 months babies are able to mentally form an image of something that is not there. In the case of separation anxiety, that image is of Mommy or Daddy. So, all of a sudden, babies start to fret when their parents leave the room, and they may continue to have short periods of worrying while their parents are gone as they recall images of the people that are supposed to always be there with them.
Allie is 7.5 months old. And the last couple of weeks she has been teary when we leave her in the nursery at church. It never lasts very long, but the second I hand her off, she starts whining. She looks at me with raised eyebrows and a frown and whimpers even before I’ve left the room. She knows it’s coming. By the time I exit her room, she is usually completely panicked and sobbing. The wonderful nursery staff can usually get her to settle down quickly through the miraculous powers of distraction and/or food. But those 3 or 4 minutes when Allie is completely worked up, it seems like her whole world has ended. Her beloved Mama is LEAVING!
Lexi is nearly 3 (what?!), and, occasionally, she still has a hard time being left in nursery. Although she fully comprehends that a) I will come back, b) she will have fun, and c) she likes the teachers and other kids, there is still a moment of resistance as I lead her to her classroom. She hugs me a little longer when she knows I am leaving. She looks at me with those big blue eyes, filled with sadness, and quietly begs me not to go. And, if she’s having a particularly bad day, she will begin to sob and refuse to let go of my neck. I have to peel her off and hand her to her teacher before I can make my way out of the room. By the time I get back, she is all smiles, covered in stickers, playing with other children, and in possession of several sheets of papers she has scribbled on. But the next time I drop her off at nursery (usually a couple of days later), it never fails that she will be saddened. Her beloved Mama is LEAVING!
So all this got me thinking… When we decide to put some distance between us and our Father, do we experience separation anxiety? Before I explore that, it’s important to point out that we leave God’s side, not the other way around. If we believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and paid the price for us to have eternal life and a relationship with the Father, then GOD NEVER LEAVES OUR SIDE. But we are more than capable of putting emotional distance between us and our Father if we want to. If we choose to ignore sin, we will feel distanced.
And when we feel this way, do we experience separation anxiety? Do we long to return to a state of emotional closeness with the Father? Do we come unglued over the fact that we feel like we’re no longer near God? Are we willing to do whatever it takes to return to emotional intimacy with Him? I think if we have an active relationship with God, the Holy Spirit will cause feelings of separation anxiety within us when we’ve sinned. Only He calls it conviction.
Unlike my children, who can’t do anything about the fact that they are separated from me while they are in nursery, we can choose to go running back to the Father when we feel we’ve been distant. No matter why we’ve been running away from Him, and no matter how long we’ve felt distant, all we have to do is turn around (confess sin), and He’ll be there.