Tough Start but a Better Finish

I get kidded about it quite a lot by my mother, my tough start to school.

I was born in the country, eleven miles from the nearest town [Marion, Kentucky]. If you know Marion, it is not a large metropolis, barely getting over the three thousand mark. I was, to put it bluntly, a sheltered kid. I did not interact much with people and spent my first five years primarily communicating with my Mom and Dad. I had a brother arrive when I three but he was not too helpful in turning me into a social animal before I had to start…SCHOOL!

You might think I am exaggerating my fear of school but I am not. I was scared to death to go.

I remember my first days vomiting before I had to go and then boarding the bus in a state of utter fright as I had to be torn from my family to matriculate with strangers.

It was awful.

I got sick so often that my parents took me to the local doctor.

But he saw right through me.

He said “This upset stomach is just nerves.” He gave me some medicine. It is at this point that I developed an aversion to Pepto-Bismol. To this day, I can’t stand the way Pepto-Bismol look, smells and tastes. I hate the stuff.

But it got me going to school.

It settled my stomach to the point that I got through the day.

Slowly but surely I began to like school and found I was an excellent student. I liked my teacher and loved reading and writing and arithmetic. In fact, I started a love affair with school that ended in 1993 when I got my Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky.

There was one dark day in first grade however. I will never forget it.

I was instructed by Mom and Dad that they were going on an overnight trip and I was to catch a different bus and ride into town and spend the night with Grandmother Daniels.

It was easy. I just had to remember the new number and do it.

I forgot.

I guess I was set in my five-year-old ways. I got on my regular bus and went on my merry way home. I did not even remember that I was supposed to get on the different bus until I got home, walked up the driveway to my house, got to the front porch and knocked on the front door. Mom did not come to the door as normal.

Then I remembered about the bus! And I was scared to death!

Eleven miles from Grandmother Daniels house with no way to contact her, no access to my home and of course no Mom and Dad.

I went into a panic.

Then I just started crying, a frantic, mournful wailing to no avail. No one could hear me. There were no neighbors. I was far away from anyone who could hear.

I was all alone.

I will never forget that day, even 58 years later, I recall it.

But today, I have a different attitude.

Before I write any further, I want to admit that I do like people. But I also do like being alone.

This appreciation of aloneness began about the time that I gave my life to Christ. Because when I am away from people, I know I am never alone. I have God.

There is a reason that Dr. Willard begins Chapter 3 with anecdotes and illustrations of being alone in today’s world.   Many people cannot stand being alone.

I am not one of them.

Christ is with me always.

Again, don’t get me wrong, if I was away from people for an extended period of time [30 days in solitary confinement], I would miss people but I always have God to talk to.

People have loneliness and some people have extreme fear of being alone which is called monophobia. Monophobia can cause shortness of breath, rapid breathing, irregular heartbeat, sweating, nausea, and overall feelings of dread. The effects of loneliness and the fear of being alone can lead to anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, depression, suicide, drug addiction, alcohol addiction, and acute and chronic illness.

One should not demean these symptoms of loneliness or monophobia. I could have them myself but I have a feeling that God is with me everywhere. I don’t have to meet Him in church. For instance today I met Him in my car, in a committee meeting, at lunch, at home with my wife but most of all I met Him in prayer this morning in a quiet room with my cup of coffee.

As I awakened from my sleep, He was there. As I began to think about my day, I prayerfully asked Him to be with me as I passed through it. As I thought about where I was going, I asked that He put me where I needed to be to do His work. I asked Him to forgive my many sins and I know he did, because he knows all my failings and all my weaknesses. I asked Him to help my friends and family who are undergoing health problems.

He is my Lord and Savior. He is everywhere.

But most especially, he is with me when I am alone.

He was with me on that front porch 58 years ago.

“No, never alone,

No, never alone,

He promised never to leave me,

Never to leave me alone.”

I can truthfully say, there is a better finish to this story and I really know what the lyrics of the song “Never Alone” mean—praise God!

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