We drove all the way to Disneyland on a weekday. Mom and dad were off of work, and we were dressed and ready for a magical day. I was four years old.
"What!? When is Disneyland closed? That’s so odd. Did you call ahead? Oh, shoot. Kids, I’m so sorry….”
Tears erupted in the backseat of the chocolate-colored Chevy Nova. Car seats remained intact and seat belts buckled as we had to drive the hour back home from Anaheim to Burbank. In an instant, our day took a hard u-turn from magical to mundane.
My mom and dad tried to make it better: “We can go anywhere else! What do you want to do? I’m so sorry guys; we’ll come back again soon when it’s open. The beach? The park?”
I announced, “I want to go to the Glendale Galleria.”
The Glendale Galleria was our local shopping mall.
My parents looked at me like I had misspoken.
Like Disneyland, the Glendale Galleria had crowds of people, an Orange Julius and noise and music and sensory overload. I think I may have had hopes for a consolation toy, too.
They indulged me. Off we went to the land of Hot Dog on a Stick, the Popcorn Palace and one of the first Disney Stores. And Mervyn's. Anyone miss Mervyn's?
But over the years the Galleria became a place of anxiety as well.
The adults would say, “Hold my hand, I don’t want to lose track of you.”
And my goodness, I didn’t want to be 'lost track of' either. What did that even mean?
Over the loudspeaker, I imagined them saying, “We’re looking for the parents of a lost little girl in front of JCPenny."
Isn’t it perplexing how our greatest fears and our wildest freedom can exist in parallel moments? On the one hand, I loved this place! For me, it was the runner-up to Disneyland. And on the other, I have vivid memories of feeling worried about being abandoned and left with the mall security guards.
Do you fear loneliness that may not ever come true? How much time do you waste worrying?
The fear of impending aloneness is the kind of fear that keeps us running away from freedom. It keeps us checking and performing and obsessing. We want to make sure we're seen, noticed.
I want to stop wasting my life on worry.
I’ve found one thing to be true: the One who made us "stays at the mall" to find us. God isn't far away but knows our name, our details, and never left us for a moment. He's "walking around the mall" calling your name, waiting for us to stand still long enough so He can find you. I think sometimes we have to hold still long enough to feel how afraid we are of loneliness. That's where I found freedom: when I faced all the fears that were killing me on the inside.
Be still and know that we’re never alone, and we’re forever loved.