God’s Promise: I Am With You
Lesson Nine: God With Us
Primary Scripture: Matthew 18:15–20 and 28:16–20
Just as Jesus’ words to his disciples in Matthew 28:16–20 send them out into the world, we too are sent out into the world again as this study concludes. And, like the disciples, as we go we carry the promise of God’s presence.
Right after Jesus tells his ragtag, worshipping and doubting, grieving and scared, band of disciples to go to all the places and to teach all the things (Matthew 28:16–20a), he says, “And remember . . .” Some older translations say “And lo”—it means wait, behold, look—don’t forget this . . ..”
Nearly 8 years ago, I had an “And lo” moment. My firstborn, Serena, was starting kindergarten. On the first day of school, we walked her all the way into her classroom, got her settled at her little desk, hugged her goodbye. And I held it together just fine. No weepy mama here. And on day two, we just walked her to the door of her classroom. No problem. So, by day three, I figured I was ready for the car drop-off line.
Now, if you’ve ever been in an elementary school carpool line (which I hadn’t at that point), you know it can be a little . . . intense. Everyone is expected to pull up to the curb when it’s their turn, and the parent doesn’t get out—instead a teacher opens the door, your child climbs out, the door is slammed shut, and you are expected to drive on, getting out of the way as quickly as possible to make room for the people and cars in line behind you.
That morning, it was just the two of us in the car. I was driving of course, and Serena was sitting in the backseat wearing a backpack that was bigger than she was, still small enough to need a booster seat, but ready to go, eager even. As we pulled up to the curb I kind of panicked. The two-story brick school building loomed, enormous, outside the car window, and there were all these people rushing everywhere; the whole world seemed really big outside our car, and Serena seemed so small.
I remember thinking that I needed to give her something—something to take with her as she headed out without me—something she could carry, or wrap around her, that would somehow—I don’t know—protect her, or help her. But, of course, I didn’t have anything to hand her, and the teacher was advancing on our car, and then the teacher was opening the door. Serena unbuckled and began to slide across the seat to climb out.
I said, “Serena, wait,” she turned to look at me and I said, “Remember, you are smart, you are special, you are loved.” And she smiled and stepped out into that big, sometimes hard and hurtful world.
The next day, in the drop-off line, as we pulled up to the curb and the teacher came toward us, Serena unbuckled and started to slide across the seat. I said, “Serena,” and she looked at me and I said, “Remember, you are smart, you are special, you are loved.”
Those words have become a kind of benediction between us; a final, sending blessing. Serena is in middle school now and doesn’t want me calling after her as she hurries down the sidewalk, “Remember, sweetie, you are smart, you are special, . . ..” And she usually slips out the door in the darkness to catch her bus. So, as often as not, I whisper to her back. “Remember, . . . you are loved.” But sometimes, I still say it aloud, or write it in a note. Because the world that she—and all of us—face every day is big. Sometimes it is hard and hurtful. My hope is that she will wrap those words around her as a reminder of who she is, of the truest thing about her. They are a blessing to carry with her as she goes out into the vast and forbidding world.
Jesus gives his disciples, gives us, a blessing like that. A blessing to wrap around ourselves, to remind us who we are as we go out into a vast and forbidding world. Jesus says, “Remember—wait, behold, look, don’t forget—I am with you.” How often? Always. How long? To the end of the age. Jesus’ resurrection benediction ends with the promise God makes again and again all the way through the Bible. I am with you. That’s the blessing we carry out into the world (or maybe it is the blessing that carries us) as we go.
“Remember,” Jesus tells us, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Y’all, it has been an absolute privilege to journey with you through God’s word. I pray that you will carry this promise with you as you go. —Amy
Amy Poling Sutherlun
Author of the 2018–2019 PW/Horizons Bible Study
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