I had been preparing him for at least a week.
“Andrew,” I’d say, “the girls are going to go to school soon.”
And he’d nod his in agreement as if we were totally on the same page here. “Yes. Andrew goes to school.”
“No, babe. Andrew stays with Mommy.”
“No, I go to school with Catherine! I go on the school bus.”
I explained it. I corrected him. I tried to make sure he’d really understand.
But of course he didn’t.
Tuesday morning came, the first day of school. We strolled out to wait for the school bus and snapped some “first day of school” photos.
He wore his own John Deere backpack and looked eager to fit in with the big girls, posing for the pictures with everyone else.
He didn’t ask why we were hanging out in the front yard. Why we stood around wearing backpacks and watching the road. Why I placed a hand on each of my daughters and prayed for them.
Then the bus arrived.
I scooped him up and held him as he slowly and fully realized the situation.
“No!!! I go to school!” He squirmed and wiggled, trying to escape and make it onto the bus, but then it pulled away and there we were: just mom and the two-year-old. No more summer fun with the big sisters.
I had a plan, though. After all, I’m an old-pro at this by now. We stopped long enough in the house just to grab our bag and then walked right back out the door.
We played at a playground. We took a long walk. We hung out at the library. We ate chicken nuggets. We came home just in time to watch some Mickey Mouse before he took a nap.
And when he woke up, it was time to get the girls.
There. One day down. 169 more school days to go.
I can’t treat him to a morning out on the town every day of this school year, of course.
But my heart is FOR him. I plan ways to ease his disappointment. I prepare him for difficult seasons and the hard days.
I know what he loves and how to bring him joy.
I pray for his year just as much as I pray for the girls who climbed up into a school bus and headed off for classrooms, playgrounds, and busy hallways.
Maybe it felt like I was against him. I was the obstacle to him climbing onto that big yellow bus and having a grand old time at school with his sisters.
But no. This is the tough love, the mysterious mercy. Kindergarten will arrive all too soon and then he will go and time will rush on.
No need to skip over this precious time and these few years without homework and tests, grades, playground squabbles, and the like.
This is the way I love my son.
And this is the way I am loved.
And this is the way God loves you too.
In Romans, I read a question:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31 ESV).
It means that I shouldn’t fear persecution from others. I shouldn’t fear what any man could do to me because God is mighty and able and is my Protector and Shield.
But before I get to that, I need to stop here: God is FOR us.
This is the truth we rely on.
If God wasn’t for us, we’d be deeply vulnerable to the attacks of others and the battering of this world. We’d be lost causes and hopeless messes.
But that’s not who we are because that’s not who HE is.
God is, indeed, FOR us, and that changes everything.
He tenderly cares for the truest needs of our hearts. He extends mysterious mercy, protecting us in ways we don’t see, providing for us in ways we can’t imagine, and preparing us for futures we can’t anticipate.
In this same chapter in Romans, we see what this looks like:
- We are no longer condemned (Romans 8:1)
- We have life through His Spirit (Romans 8:12)
- We are beloved children and heirs of God (Romans 8:14-17)
- The Spirit helps us in our weakness (Romans 8:26).
- He’s working everything out for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28).
- Christ is interceding for us even now (Romans 8:34).
- We can’t be separated from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35).
- We are more than conquerors in Jesus (Romans 8:37).
We can rest right here, just stretch ourselves out on this sweet bed of promise: Because God is FOR us, we need not be afraid–not of the unexpected, not of the uncertain, not of the painful or the downright hard.
This is what it means to be extravagantly and abundantly loved by our gracious God.