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"Are you here?" by Nicole Johnson (CatholicMom.com) Image credit: Pixabay.com (2019), CC0/PD[/caption] A few weeks ago, my son asked if he could head downtown to hang with a couple of friends. He was going to need to be picked up, so I asked him to please text me a time and place once his plans were settled, the only caveat being that it needed to be by 3:00, as I had to get his sister to her speech therapy appointment at 4. A short time later, my guy texted that he’d like to be picked up at 3 in the parking lot by a pizza place our family frequents. I confirmed that sounded good -- we had a plan. A little before pick-up time, I loaded my 9-year-old and our puppy in the car and headed to the lot. In my haste to do so, I left my cell phone behind. And that innocent mistake would be the beginning of the end of mom having it all together. I realized I had forgotten my phone shortly after leaving the house, but was too far to turn around. I definitely felt the initial panic of not having it, but figured all would be OK. I didn’t see my son when we first arrived at the lot, so I parked where he would see me and waited. After a few minutes, I sat wishing I had my phone so I could send a quick text that I was there. Several more minutes passed with me scanning the lot, my anxiety and frustration growing over where he could be. My daughter was now asking to get out of her seat and the puppy was crying, making me nervous he needed a bathroom run. Things were beginning to unravel and there was little I could do. Long story short, I spent the next half hour driving around in circles trying to see if perhaps he was somewhere else in town. It was certainly a possibility that he had texted me a different pickup spot and assumed I had my phone to get the message. I returned to the lot three different times, my anger and frustration growing and fear now creeping in. I know who my son is. He may be on the more forgetful side, but he’s responsible and considerate. He wouldn’t just not show up. What if something crazy happened? What if he’s the next kid that ends up on the news as the mysterious disappearance no one can make sense of? Noah was with a friend who could drive him home. Although that was not the initial plan, perhaps things had changed and he was already there. I left the lot and drove home. I couldn’t get to my phone fast enough to figure out what I had missed. 15 anxious minutes later, I ran into the house: no Noah. I grabbed my phone and there was a simple message from him. “Are you here?” And then several minutes later he had texted that his friend would be driving him home. My fear was now put to rest. I knew he was safe and on his way. Now comes the failure. I was mad -- so mad. I had spent the last hour trying to find him and his sister missed her speech appointment. I felt like I had done my part. I showed up where I was supposed to be. Where was he? It didn’t make any sense. I dialed his number and let loose. Every bit of frustration over my lack of control, every bit of anger that the afternoon had fallen apart, every bit of anxiety over not being able to communicate with him and figure out what was going on -- it all came out in a twenty-second phone call with me yelling and my son confused and silently listening. Once he made it home, we went around in circles for several minutes, each adamant that we were where we were supposed to be. Suddenly, it finally dawned on me that we were each where we thought we were supposed to be -- just across the street from one another in two adjacent lots. It was, in the end, an innocent mistake and I had absolutely failed. The quick text messages and lack of a decent conversation made for less than adequate communication and ample opportunity for failure. This story serves as the perfect metaphor for the reality we all must live in if we are not in constant communication with God -- with the one and only lifeline that will bring us where we need to be each and every time. How often are we certain that we are where we are supposed to be in life? When things are running smoothly for me, my prayer life is comparable to a quick text here and there; communication is spotty and I sit confidently in the lie that the future is my own and all is sure to remain calm and well, in order, just how I like it. The truth is always near, however, threatening to break through the feigned perfection and force the need for deeper communication. Without it, we are left searching, driving around in circles and missing what is right next to us. We inevitably become absorbed by fear. Anger is quick to follow and we are destined to fail every time; ourselves, those we love, or even the stranger on the street in need of seeing a piece of God within us. There is no doubt we are living in challenging times, with ample opportunity for fear around every corner. While history has never been without significant evils, what I feel is unique in our day is the communication piece. I still have a hard time getting past the fact that, if I had just remembered my phone that day, everything would have worked out just fine. How often can we say that about prayer? Communication with God -- real communication, unhindered by time limits and to-do lists, has the potential to impact every part of our lives at every stage of our lives; providing critical direction and guidance we can get no where else, life-altering peace in times of grief and distress, calm and security in times of fear, strength in times of temptation and weakness, serenity in times of anger and frustration and added joy in times of celebration. Prayer is the key to living in the moment and understanding that the future does not belong to us but rather to the One who, in His perfect and infinite wisdom, already has it all figured out. Lent is the perfect opportunity to think about the importance of Jesus in our lives and to take some time to think about what our lives would be like if Jesus were not a part of it, if the Easter story was really just that, a story. Think for a second how hard it would be to get through the day without your cell phone. Scary isn’t it? I’d submit we’d feel lost, powerless even. Now think of the three days the world fell into darkness while Jesus lay in the tomb. What if we had lived during that time? How overwhelming and entirely distressing was it for believers when He breathed His last on that cross? It’s a reality we never have to deal with. We have the great privilege of knowing what happens at the end of the story. The tomb is empty. Jesus showed up. Our salvation is secure. On the flip side, Lent is the perfect time to consider how accessible we are to Jesus. What if you were my son that day and Jesus was expecting to meet you at the lot? Would you be secure in your own right, feeling like you were in the right place? How often do we wait to speak with God until we are in need and wonder why God doesn’t seem to be showing up when we are waiting for an answer to prayer? What I didn’t initially tell you is that my inability to communicate with my son had the ripple effect of creating panic and worry not only for him but also for my husband. Noah had texted him at work to ask if perhaps he had heard anything from me and knew why I hadn’t shown up to get him. That got my husband worrying and he spent the next half-hour trying to reach me, of course to no avail being that I didn’t have my phone. My inability to communicate led to a lot of unnecessary fear and a failure of an afternoon. I’ve realized that prayer certainly has a ripple effect in my own life. If I’m communicating with God I’m always less anxious and more at peace. This affects every role I fill, as a wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend and coworker. It has got me to thinking; what if I reached out for God as many times a day as I reached for my cell phone? Believe it or not, He is even more all knowing than Google, more precise in His direction than Ways or Google Maps, and more genuine and honest than any Instagram or Facebook post. In the end, that simple text message from my son will always stick with me when I think back to the havoc that unfolded when I forgot my phone. Any parent knows that the inability to reach their child, whether physically or emotionally, is heart-wrenching and brings undeniable fear and overwhelming sadness. We’d all do well to remember that we are each a cherished child of God. If He can’t reach us, His heart is simply not complete. As you walk through this Lent, take some time each day to sit in quiet with no distractions, picture Jesus with His arms outstretched to you, His eyes kind and His heart open as He asks you, "Are you here?"
Copyright 2020 Nicole Johnson