“I’ll Be Okay, Mommy!”
Exploring What God Gave Up for Us
Autumn J. Conley
I had been through this a whole school-year’s worth of weekdays before, but today I found myself surprisingly emotional about the whole thing. The big yellow school bus pulled up to our driveway, I gave my little first-grader a kiss and one of those “please-don’t-go” kind of hugs, and reluctantly watched her step up into the school bus. I had been regretting this day for the whole summer, thinking that she would cry or get all clingy like little ones often do on their first day of school, particularly since she had now emerged from her cute little kindergarten building and was facing the trauma of going to what she referred to as “big school.” But Cissy wasn’t the one who was upset on this day of new adventure – it was her mommy who was suffering from the real separation anxiety.
She must have sensed my repressed tears of separation because she turned around, smiled as she fumbled with her new Dora the Explorer backpack, and shouted from the bus, “I’ll be okay, mommy!” Then, she waved and stepped up into the dark shadows of the inner bus. I watch the big yellow vehicle as it scuttled down the road, and I prayed with a huge knot in my throat that God would take care of my brave little girl on her first day at the elementary school. Logically, I had no need to worry. Yes, she’d now be surrounded by older kids – as old as eighth-graders. Yes, she’d be outdoors playing on a taller slide than last year and be eating who-knows-what at lunch and have to face the inevitable newness of homework assignments, but really, I knew she’d be okay. It was a public school, but a good one. I had gone there, my brother and sister had gone there, and so had my mom, my aunt, my uncles, and several of my cousins. We had all survived and made it home safely. But releasing my precious child – my only child nonetheless – into the unknown was a terrifying and heart-wrenching thing to do, even if I knew deep down that we’d be reunited at the end of the very same day. As hard as it was to watch her get onto that school bus and ride away, I knew deep down that she’d be okay just like she had said.
As I drove the 20-minute work commute that August morning, I began to wonder about someone else’s child. What would He have said to His beloved Father the day he had to step into the sonship of a cruel and carnal world? Jesus, I thought, couldn’t even honestly say to his Father, “I’ll be okay, Daddy,” because they both knew in advance that He wouldn’t. So, how much stronger must God be than me? Here I was, a mom completely freaking out because I was sending my daughter off to first grade for the first time. But God had to send his Son somewhere much more terrifying – to a place where He knew his Son would be in danger. It was everything in my power to hold back my tears when I put my child on that school bus and watched it go down our street. How much greater must God’s tears have been as He sent his Son to a place where they both knew He would face wandering homelessness, hatred, betrayal, and, ultimately, torture, public humiliation, and crucifixion?
What’s more, while the law demands that I put myself through this emotional distress every August for the next eleven years, no law forced God to send his Son for inevitable harm except the law of his love for us. Any child who has ever been in church knows this. “For God love the world in this way; He gave his one and only Son.” (John 3:16a CSV). And why did He do this? What prompted him to send his precious and only child out of their comfortable, glorious home to a place as horrid and decrepit as the earth below them? “So that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16b CSV). I cringe to think how I would feel if someone told me I had to send my daughter to be harmed and killed for the sake of someone else’s troubled child.
God didn’t have to send Christ. He could have rested on his laurels and simply changed his mind, leaving us no hope of salvation. But, as much as He loved his Son – rather, as much and more than any of us love our own children – He was willing to bid Christ a bittersweet farewell on our behalf. Even though He knew that the end result would be resurrection and triumph, voluntarily and sacrificially sending his child into our hands was an act of love that no one will ever be able to replicate. When Jesus stepped into Bethlehem to pave his way to Golgotha, He and his Father knew what lay ahead. It was as if Jesus could say, despite the suffering He’d inevitably endure, “I’ll be okay in the long run, Dad,” and because of this, my little girl will be okay in the long run, too.
The next time my daughter releases me from a goodbye hug and says to me, “I’ll be okay, Mommy,” I’ll remember that she will, because God’s sacrifice of his own Son made a way for me and my daughter to share eternity with Him and with each other, regardless of school buses and first grade and all the temporary elementary traumas we’ll inevitably come across in the days to come.