Modern psychologists talk of a nasty human experience called separation anxiety. They say that it is caused by a separation from one’s subjects of attachment such as parents, family members, close relatives and friends.
This kind of anxiety is so deeply felt that it causes a number of disorders often characterized by such symptoms as recurring distress, persistent and excessive worry and fear, lack of sleep and recurring nightmares.
Regardless of the cause of separation, the anxiety it causes result always in a very dangerous human condition since it can as well affect our physiological state by causing some kind of chemical imbalance in the brain, hence triggering off many other types of anxiety disorders whose source is hard to trace.
This kind anxiety is capable of destroying both our physical and spiritual life. In our post genocide community, we need not read the work of such psychologists to understand what is meant by separation anxiety disorders because our hearts are still bleeding from its effect in our community.
Since separation is a human experience which is as old as man himself, different people have had to face it at different times in human history. The disciples of Jesus too had their turn of facing this anxiety when time came for them to separate from their Master.
Christians meditate on this event on the feast of Ascension of Jesus. When describing it, the bible tells us that as Jesus was talking with his disciples “...he was lifted up while they looked on, and a cloud took him from their sight.” (Acts 1:9) That is how Jesus ended his life here on earth.
When narrating this to our young people today with the influence of modern technology, it sounds to them as if a rocket-like Jesus left off from a launching pad as he lowered down the curtains on his earthly scene in order to call it a quit.
On the contrary, it was not all that abrupt. Jesus had known all along that this separation would cause lots of anxiety to his disciples. He had prepared them to face it with a positive understanding.
That is why he had told them a number of parables whereby he depicted himself as a master who set out on a long journey leaving his servants in charge of his estate until he would return. In such parables he was preparing his disciples to assume the responsibility over his church.
It is clear from the last words of Jesus; although they have been recorded differently in the Acts, in Matthew and Mark; that Jesus had a precise mission for his disciples and that he was to assist them in the accomplishment of that mission.
“Go into all the nations and preach the gospel to the whole creation” This they would not do all alone; “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
(Acts 1:8) He cautioned them against the kind of separation anxiety they had started to manifest, reminding them that he would be present still and in charge of the situation: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age”. (Matt 28:19-20)
Our celebration of the feast of Ascension teaches us two important lessons in our Christian life. Though we may have still that feeling of being on our own, the spreading of the Good News to all nations is not a goal that can be attained by dint of human might and craft.
Jesus knows we have that temptation in our thought and that is why he promised to empower his messengers from on high by his abiding presence and the Holy Spirit.
As Christians and messengers of God, the challenge of sharing the Good News with all humankind should, therefore, begin on our knees as we confess that we have often taken matters into our own selfish human hands. When this happens we tend to assume the air of superiority and triumphalism which is a disservice to the gospel.
Another equally important lesson of Ascension is that we need not be anxious at all. Christ remains with us. Paradoxically, when Jesus takes his place beside the Father, his presence among us is perpetuated and confirmed. For by being glorified, Jesus´ humanity is no longer subject to any created power as of Pirate.
It is high above every power we can think of. His presence is now different. During the days of his earthly existence in the Jewish culture, he remained confined to a small corner of the earth, and for a brief span of around thirty years. But now he fills the universe in all its parts, including our neighborhood.
Now, Christians of all times and all places can enter into living contact with him by their faith. In fact as Peter saw him walking on the waters of Genesareth, now with the eyes of our faith we can find him walking on the waters near us.
This would be on Lake Kivu, Lake Muhazi, Lake Tanganyika or Lake Victoria. And this is an important message of Ascension; Christ is now present to us and he can help us overcome any kind of separation anxiety. He is ready to fill that void in you and me.