I want to extend a warm welcome to Kari Stainback. Her words hit the tender places of not being seen and chosen. I couldn’t be happier to feature her words as part of the Ministry Monday Series. Welcome Kari!
Not long ago at a family gathering, I happened upon an endless version of the game “Peek a Boo” with a toddler. Over and over and OVER again I put a scarf over her little head and said, “Where did Lucy go?”
Then I’d yank the scarf off to her gleeful shrieks and reply, “There she is!” The giggles and the fun lasted for longer than I thought possible for a game to continue with a baby.
What made Lucy giggle so profusely as she participated in this game is that she was learning something called “object permanence”. It is the developmental process that allows children to understand that an object continues to exist when it can’t be seen, touched or heard. Prior to this stage, in the first few months of a baby’s life, they think when an object is “out of sight”, in their minds, it ceases to exist! So when Lucy couldn’t see me, she just thought in her tiny toddler mind, “she’s not gone, she’s right there and boy howdy that is hilarious!”
Object permanence is very important because it gives us the ability to understand that objects that we may have never seen in our lives actually exist. For example, I’ve never been to France nor seen the Eiffel Tower, but I know that it exists even though I’ve never physically seen it. Throughout our childhoods as we become adults, object permanence moves from the physical to the abstract as we gain more experience with the world around us. And, by God’s grace, it lays the foundation in our brains to develop faith in the triune God. We can know, by faith, the One who we have not seen physically, but we can be sure He is with us. In Christ, He is our ultimate permanent object.
Some of my favorite verses that teach us this truth are:
“My presence will go with you and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14)
“Just as I as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.” (Joshua 1:5)
“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I feel from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.” (Psalm 139:8-9)
“…I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b)
“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5b)
Sometimes, I don’t feel God is near. Perhaps, you, like I, tend to think, “Does God really care? Does He know I’m feeling alone and forgotten?”
For years, I thought I experienced loneliness because of my singleness.
I find, loneliness tempts us to find comfort by escaping through activity, or shutting down or drowning our sorrows in food or drink, or my personal favorite: cruising the mall on Saturday nights. It’s easy to give in to despair and resentment, to stop reading the Bible or praying. I keep learning, none of these leads us to lasting peace. What does lead to peace is something Amy Carmichael wrote about in her poem, “For In Acceptance Lieth Peace”.
Our loneliness may not go away,
but it can be accepted as God’s will for today and that turns it into something beautiful.
Recently I had an ugly bout with loneliness, all of my familiar temptations to doubt and escape swirled around me. I did not feel God’s presence. All I felt was the dread that the loneliness had returned and that it would only get worse in the days ahead.
I found His presence.
I opened my Bible and read it, listening for the Word He had for me. It came! I prayed and thanked the Lord for being the One who would never leave me or forsake me. He gave me peace. The very next day God sent me a surprise of His love in the mail, something only He could do in His perfect timing. It was a quarterly magazine from the seminary from which I graduated. On the back was a graphic of a tree, rooted in Christ Jesus, with its branches filled with names of single men and women who have furthered God’s Kingdom throughout church history.
To my utter amazement, in the far right branch I saw my name. Underneath the graphic was written the verse, “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:35).
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Kari Stainback is Director of Women’s Ministries at Park Cities Presbyterian Church in Dallas, TX. She coordinates women’s Bible studies, discipleship and special events. Kari is a Licensed Professional Counselor and does pastoral counseling for women in the church. She is also a board certified supervisor of counselors.
Kari joined the staff of PCPC in the fall of 1999. She has been in her present position for 15 years.