June 2006 - Volume 10, Issue 11

Lord, Give Me Strength

By Janice Alonso

My husband began a new job a few months before our younger son, Andrew, was born. The position required that he travel much of the time. As a result, Andrew became quite attached to me.

Photograph of a boy's silhouetteThe new job also meant that soon thereafter we moved from our old, familiar neighborhood, and we continued to relocate frequently by the time Andrew was of preschool age. When my older son began nursery school two days a week, he'd been excited. Many of his little buddies from the neighborhood went to Chapel in the Pines, and several were in his class. We were also a part of a carpool with more of his friends. When Andrew was ready for his big day, we were once again in a new community where we were renting a place until our house in the last city sold. Neither he nor I knew a soul in our new neighborhood, and we would be driving alone on that first day to his school.

Because of our togetherness over those first few years, Andrew was apprehensive about being separated from me. Maybe "apprehensive" is too weak a word to express his feelings of anxiety. He had to be literally pried from my arms. I understand this may sound like I should have kept him home for perhaps another year, but I felt I shouldn't for two reasons. First, because of his late birthday, he was already almost a year older than the other children going into the three-year-old class; and second, the area in which we rented had no children for him to play with. Yes, we took him to church, but even there he sobbed when I left him, pitiful heartbreaking sobs. He felt bad; I felt worse; and the teachers in the nursery class felt the worst of all. Many times, I had to be pulled out of the church service because he was so unhappy. For these reasons and after much prayer, I felt he needed the interaction with children his age that he would receive by attending school a few days a week. I also prayed the experience would help to build his confidence about being away from me and on his own.

The night before school was to start, we packed his book bag, picked out an outfit for him to wear, and discussed all the fun he was going to have. He didn't want to go and began to cry. Even at that young age, his list of reasons not to go would have reached to the moon and back. But I knew that underlying all the reasons he had, lay one big reason why he didn't want to go. He was simply afraid. And I certainly couldn't blame him. Going into new situations as an adult was intimidating enough, but at four it had to be overwhelming. We prayed about being brave, but his fears couldn't be calmed. He needed something more concrete. I did come up with an idea I hoped would help.

When I was in high school, charm bracelets were all the rage. Our mascot had been a lancer, a knight in armor atop a valiant steed. That night I removed the charm from the bracelet and gave it to him. I explained to him that a knight was brave, and he rode on his horse and carried a lance to fight for all things good. I told Andrew to keep the charm in his pocket, and when he felt afraid he should reach inside and rub it with his finger. That touch would remind him that even if I wasn't there, I loved him and would always be there for him, if not in person, then in spirit. As young as he was, he understood.

He's now twenty five. He graduated from college a few years ago and lives in an apartment. When I asked him about the lancer not long ago, he told me he keeps it in a box in his room. And no, he doesn't wail and cry when we part company these days and feel the need to touch the charm. But at that tender time in his life, a brief touch to the lancer reminded him to be strong, and he felt protected. I was reminded of this experience with Andrew and the lancer because of something that happened to me last week.

Photograph of small smooth stonesRecently we completed a series of sermons on prayer. An area just outside our sanctuary was filled with small, smooth stones that the congregation was encouraged to take and use as a reminder to pray for someone or some situation. I took one and placed it inside the purse I took to church that Sunday. I remembered to pray for my person that week, but unfortunately, I changed purses and forgot about the stone. One day last week I pulled out the purse. When I reached inside, my fingers brushed the stone. I immediately thought about the person for whom I had been praying, but my morning devotion had been about David and Goliath, so naturally my mind flashed to that story as well. I took the stone from the purse, traced my fingers around its smooth perimeter and thought once more about Andrew and the lancer. Several issues have been on my mind lately, most of which I can do nothing about except pray. And I do pray, but like Andrew I felt like I wanted something more concrete.

I now place the stone in my pocket or on my desk when I write. Just as the lancer gave Andrew strength years ago, that stone reminds me of the strength with which God provides me each day. David had a pouch with five stones, but he only need one to combat his mighty opponent. One is all I need, too. With the help of that small stone, I am reminded of God's power in me to face whatever challenges I may encounter during the day.