I took Siah to the bathroom at the church space. And while I was waiting for him, I realized that the stools for kids to reach the sink were missing from the bathroom. I told him I was going to run and grab them and I’d be back in a couple seconds. So I did – ran out, got them, and hustled back before you could say “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”

But when I got back, Siah was in hysterics. Puffy red cheeks, big streaming tears, crying out, “YOU LEFT ME! YOU LEFT ME!” It tore my heart up.

I stroked his head and face, wiped his tears, and held him closely. Then I told him something that I thought was encouraging and reassuring: “I didn’t leave you, Siah. I just ran out for a second to get the stools. See? I came right back. You are one of the most important people in the whole world to me. I didn’t leave you – I’ll never leave you!”

He was much calmer, but then right at the end of my comment, he pulled away, looked me square in the eyes, and said very matter-of-factly, “But you DID leave me!”

Ouch.

After I got over the initial sting of having let my son down, his response percipitated a huge “aha!” moment for me. Even though my heart was with Siah, even though my intent was to return to his visible presence imminently, it didn’t matter – I technically left him, and he perceived it as being abandoned.

This is where my “I’ll never leave you” is fundamentally different from Jesus’s “I’ll never leave you.” When He says “I’ll never leave you,” He means not even technically…not even to grab the stools. When He says His name is “Emmanuel, God with us,” He means He always is with us. He never leaves us, not even for a second.

He will never leave us. He will never forsake us. He is Emmanuel, God with us.