Sunday 29 November
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Separation anxiety

In this reflection Rhona Cathcart writes about separation anxiety, something many of us have felt keenly during this year of lockdown restrictions. In this unsettling moment she finds reassurance and resonance in timeless words found in the book of Romans and Genesis that tell us we are never alone.


When you are a minister, people sometimes ask you what your favourite verses are. I have a few, but the ones I come back to again and again are Romans 8: 38-39. At virtually every funeral I conduct I have the privilege of saying to people ‘nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.’

Maybe these words resonate particularly strongly with me because of losing my father to a sudden heart attack when I was a child. He died in the middle of the night, and I know I spent at least a year or so struggling to get to sleep at night, because I worried some other loved one might die while I was sleeping.

I have since read that children of 10 or 11 quite often suffer some degree of separation anxiety, even without the trauma of a sudden death. Nor are adults immune to the effects of separation from loved ones. It has been one of the hardest elements of the this ongoing health crisis — especially when loved ones have been terminally ill and unable to be visited for fear of infection.

In a less drastic, but still painful, way we have been separated from family members who are well. Or separated from friends, from work places, from social or worship places, from the familiar routines we enjoy. I suspect part of the healing we will be seeking in the months and years to come will be ways of dealing with the shared trauma of separation anxiety. We will need to learn that it is safe to sleep, so to speak, without fear that this will mean waking up to more loss.

A few years ago a minister friend pointed out that in the first story of creation, there is a refrain ‘there was evening, there was morning, the first day…’ (or the second day and so on). The days of creation, my friend pointed out, began in the evening not the morning. So while creation slept and while we are sleeping, God continues to work. When we wake up, we join in. My friend resolved to treat his bedtime prayer as a morning prayer from now on, handing over the first part of the ‘day’ for God to take care of while he rested, so that he could wake up refreshed and ready to take part. He knew that even in sleep, he wasn’t separated from God.

It’s a great idea, and a comforting one. Nothing — not even unconsciousness — can separate us from the love of God.


Let us pray:


Why do I fear losing you God?

Or is it losing myself that I fear?


Tell me again what I need to know

That nothing can separate me from your love.

Nothing I do.

Nothing I fail to do.

Nothing anyone else does.

Nothing.


Not death. Not life.

Not angels. Not kings.

Not even presidents.


Not the mistakes I’ve made

Not the mess I am making

Not the next disaster which takes me surprise.

Not my enemies. Not my friends.

Not a virus.


Nothing.

No ifs. No ands. No buts.


Nothing can separate me from you.


Waking or sleeping,

Your love will not, cannot, let me go


Through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Amen.


Rhona Cathcart, Minister, Inverurie West Parish Church


#unequivocal #relationships #closeness #incontrovertible #inseparable #trust

Words of comfort

Romans 8: 38-39

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Philippians 4: 5-7

5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Genesis 1: 1-26

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

6 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it.And it was so. 8 God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God calledthe dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signsto mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it,according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

Prayers

Nothing can separate me from your love

Tell me again what I need to know

That nothing can separate me from your love.

Nothing I do.

Nothing I fail to do.

Nothing anyone else does.

Nothing.

You cannot let me go

Waking or sleeping,

Your love will not, cannot, let me go

Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.