Picture a girl clinging to her stuffed bunny on her first day of school. Now picture her as a sixth grader.
That’s how I first met Leah. It didn’t surprise me. Her application clearly stated Leah suffered from separation anxiety.
As the director of instruction of our Christian school, it was my job to process student applications. The headmaster and I felt led to accept Leah. We believed God could do a mighty work. Leah was transferring from public school to our Christian school. The exposure to God’s peace in our school could help Leah overcome her separation anxiety.
Leah’s parents were very supportive. They said they’d put us in touch with her psychiatrist.
I spoke with Leah’s mother before the new school year began. Mrs. Jones prepared me well, providing information beyond the usual school records.
“How did Leah’s last school year go, Mrs. Jones?
“Leah needed home-bound instruction for most of fifth grade,” Mrs. Jones explained.
“How many days did she attend school?” I asked.
“During the last quarter we gradually weaned her from home-bound instruction. Each week she attended more hours.”
“Did she eventually make it for an entire school day?” I inquired.
“No. She couldn’t make it. Often the school had to call me because she experienced a panic attack,” her mother answered.
“What were her panic attacks like?”
“She’d complain of stomach aches and headaches. She’d ask to go to the nurse.”
“Did the nurse find any evidence of a physical illness on those occasions?”
“Never. The psychiatrist recommended that I pick her up from school when her anxiety reached that level. I had to bring her home every day.”
Leah’s mother gave me the name and number of the psychiatrist and encouraged me to speak with him.
When I called the psychiatrist, he laid out a plan.
“If Leah complains of any physical ailments and asks to go to the nurse, send her. If the nurse determines that Leah’s physically well, she’ll bring Leah to you. Casually ask Leah about school and things in her life. Your calm demeanor should help her relax. If she complains of any physical discomfort, tell her that the nurse said she’s fine. Then quickly change the subject.”
As the school administrator, I’d be the person to determine if we needed to call home and ask Mrs. Jones to pick her up.
We put that plan into action. The first week of school I needed to call her mother twice. Mrs. Jones picked her up. Even during that first week, however, Leah was able to remain in school for several entire days. Maybe not in class, but in school. Sometimes all she needed was to talk to her mother on the phone. That calmed her. I’d then take Leah for a walk outside and she’d relax enough to go back into the classroom.
By the end of the year Leah was attending entire days. She still carried her bunny, but rarely needed to go home. Her visits to the nurse diminished. She and I met only occasionally.
On the last day of school I asked to speak to her in my office.
“Leah, you’ve made it to the end of the year. God has helped you overcome your anxiety. I’m so grateful to Him and proud of you. Let’s thank the Lord.”
After a time of prayer, I presented her with a gift. I gave her a miniature graduation cap for her bunny.
“It’s time for both of you to graduate. You’ll be graduating sixth grade. Your bunny will graduate from school. He’ll no longer need to accompany you next year. You’ll be fine on your own with God’s help.”
Leah attended seventh grade without her bunny and without needing to go home. She never again needed to call her mother from school. Later in the year, Leah even slept over a friend’s house. Quite a remarkable accomplishment and testimony to God’s faithfulness in her life!
Leah went on to attend college and get married.
We’re not very different than Leah.
Don’t we also worry? Forgetting God is in control.
Aren’t we vulnerable to fears? Allowing our thoughts to be consumed by the what if’s.
Aren’t we prone to the contaminated thinking of the culture which tells us we can solve all our problems? Believing we don’t need God.
Like Leah, our minds are easily led astray. Forgetting how much God loves us and our kids. Paul knew that danger when he warned, “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3).”
What a comfort we have in the reminder Peter gives us to, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).”
Let your mental anguish melt away as you listen to “You Are My Hiding Place.”