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Trusting Christ's Assurance
Gospel Reflection, 6th Tuesday of Easter: John 16:5-11
I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. John 16:7a
My husband and I glanced across the school yard from one kid to the next, watching to see if they were settling in okay. At ages 7, 8, and 12, this was the first day of traditional school for our children. Up until that year, we had homeschooled our kids, but circumstances changed and they were embarking on a new school journey. During the first week of classes, their teacher would meet and gather all their class in the school yard and then walk in together.
We had been most nervous about our middle child, who has high anxiety. She was, however, contentedly chatting with her new teacher. As my eyes slid over toward our youngest, though, I had a sudden realisation that there was another child I should have held more concern over for this transition. She stood there with her pink, butterflied backpack on, summer t-shirt and shorts, with her arms crossed and her back facing her gathered class. A frown was furrowed on her face and even from the distance where I stood, I could tell she was on the verge of bursting into tears.
Of our kids, she ended up having the most difficult transition. I realised later that she had never been separated from her family for so long during the day before. Even at church camps, her sister was almost always in sight, if not in her group. This was her first major separation and it turned out that it amplified her anxiety.
We offered her words of reassurance, laminated pictures of our family for her to keep with her, notes in her lunch assuring her of our love and prayers. We would share about the fun things she would get to experience in her class and that her teacher was there to help her. However, the only thing that eventually really helped was time: becoming used to the new normal and trusting her teacher was there to help her. It was one to two months of very difficult mornings before things turned around.
Today, Jesus is in the process of preparing his disciples for his coming death, a major separation, and is trying to assure them it’s better this way, arguably in a similar way to how we were trying to assure our daughter. He tells them it’s better for them, and they will have a new presence, the Advocate, who will guide them in his place, and give them conviction.
I often wonder if his words ended up having the lasting effect that he hoped they would on those disciples. After all, when it came to his death, they all scattered and were afraid; they didn’t seem reassured that Jesus had forewarned them and promised them a further lasting presence. Though they were broken, he remained true to his word, and his Spirit was given to them. Then they truly were convicted in their faith in Jesus.
While we couldn’t promise our daughter that her teacher would convict her in a similar way, he did give her his compassion, his wonder, and his joy. And she did come to find her own compassion, wonder, and joy in the classroom through the guidance of her teacher.
Changes make us nervous. Sometimes we are like the disciples and we want to run away and hide, or like my daughter, we want to turn our back on the situation and cry. But we can trust that Jesus has provided us with his Spirit - we can read how it happened for the disciples! Our long Christian history witnesses to this happening over and over again for believers. The official saints are just a few; there are so many who are unmentioned! It can be so for us as well. The psalm reminds us that God’s kindness lasts forever, he answers when we call on him (psalm 138).
Let us call on the Lord when we feel stranded; like a good Father, he will reach out to us to offer his assurance and his everlasting presence.