I was thinking the other day about God being with us. He tells us his name is Immanuel which means “God with us,” but what does that really mean? And how is that supposed to help?
I’ve pictured him as an overseer of sorts, watching from above and shuffling things around in my life. I’ve pictured him as a presence everywhere, knowing everything. And, yeah, it’s nice to know he’s with us, but when life gets really uncomfortable and awkward and painful and unbearably heavy, an overseer just doesn’t cut it. Sorry, God, that’s not good enough.
And as I thought about it, a forgotten memory surfaced.
I was four and we lived out in The Boonies. Away from the city, away from electricity, away from streetlamps and plugged in night-lights. So when it got dark at night, the darkness was very dark.
I remember waking up to the quiet of Nighttime. The house was asleep and so very silent. I sat up in bed inside the mosquito net tucked securely under my mattress. I needed to use the bathroom, but I was afraid in the dark. Outside my mosquito net were all kinds of scary creatures. Snakes, spiders, scorpions. I just knew they were creeping around on the floor waiting to be stepped on with my bare feet.
I did the only thing that made sense to me.
A slight stirring told me she heard me. And then a soft glow appeared in the open space between the walls of my room and the rafters. Mommy was coming. The glow got closer and bigger until suddenly she was there with me, filling my room with the warm light of her candle. Immediately I felt safe. Her very presence meant light and comfort and safety.
And all the creepy crawlies fled.
I quickly untucked the mosquito net and scrambled out of bed.
“Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
“and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
“‘Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you,’ says the Lord.”