A whisper, to my fears in the wee hours, “Stay close.” Tossing and turning, I hear it again, “Stay close.” Sleep is a distant wish, so I get up to investigate this two-word phrase repeating in the darkness of the night.
I see myself, the little girl me, walking in a crowd among the forest of knees and hips around me. I feel the fear of lost. My heartbeat picks up and runs. Turning circles, there is nothing familiar in my sight, until a hand reaches out for me. “Stay close,” says my mom. The relief is immediate and from that moment on, I heed her words.
I see my own son, the little boy wanderer that he is. Curious about the world around him. Bored of shopping, he needs more interesting things to see. I turn around and he is gone. My eyes scan each aisle. My heart races to find him. I call his name. I push the panic down. Tears threaten to overtake me, until I hear my name over the speaker. They spill down my cheeks, as I gather him to me in a hug. Sweet relief. As we walk away I say, “Stay close” and he does.
I see myself, as a teenager, walking in darkness. The streets of the city are ominous at night. I feel fear around each corner. It stalks me. Be careful. Be cautious. Be aware. My heart pumps adrenaline to prepare me to run. My dad steps up beside me, “Stay close,” he says. And though neither of us is any safer than we were seconds ago, the wave of together washes over me, and I am stuck to him like glue.
I see my children in a pack, a gaggle of Gunnins, in a hurry to get to the playground. Cars rush by on the street blocking our way. Swish, swish, swish. They are coming too fast to cross. I stand, feeling the weight of responsibility to get them all safely across; Mama Duck, if you will. My eyes scan to and fro. My neck is twisting and turning, until a space I deem large enough appears. Heart pounding, I step into the street with a chain of children. “Stay close!” I say loudly, as I rush them across.
It occurs to me, now sitting here in the quiet of insomnia, that these two simple words are packed with meaning. Especially in these times of the unknown future. There is danger afoot. It is not a time for wandering or rushing. It is not a time for lost. It is not a time for separated, even in the separation. God is saying, “Stay close.” He means, depend on me. Do not let me out of your sight. I will take care of you. It is an admonition of caution. A warning of words.
My heart pounds with the stress and pressure. It wakes my brain and signals me to worry. Danger is near, it says. Though it does not know what form it will take, it simply knows something is up, like a crowd, or an empty aisle, or a shadowland, or traffic that never stops. It is a nebulous feeling of impending peril which cannot be pinpointed, other than to hang over my head. My eyes rove, looking for solutions to problems yet unseen. The foggy path is closing in and I strain to see what is up ahead.
No wonder God is whispering in my ear, his child is lost and wandering. What parent wouldn’t be trying to calm their child in the midst of a hazardous situation? So many voices vying for my attention, but his is the only one I listen to. “Stay close.” It is saying the opposite of all the others. “Stay apart.” “Be afraid.”
There is a clear need for staying close to the one who can protect me, right now. Like taking the hand of my mother, I reach for him. I let him draw me closer to him and I stick to his side like glue. He is the only one I allowed to be near in this time of separation. Closer than my breath in the midst of isolation. My invisible protector. I just love it when he does that opposite-of-the-world thing. His stealth shrewdness brings a smile to my face.
I only know, to move when he moves and stand still when he does. I do not know how to avoid the threat on my own, so I follow him to safety. I blindly trust him to get me where I am supposed to be. I only listen to him. Though danger and uncertainty are all around me, I am relieved when I hear the words, “Stay close.”