After a long, taxing day, I generally have one of two plans:
- Get in bed and watch old episodes of Friends or Gilmore Girls while eating chips and salsa. OR…
- Get in bed and read a book while eating gummy bears.
I do not plan for other people to be involved in these finales to my hardest days, because: #INTROVERT. My husband is welcome to sit silently beside me and enjoy the show or his own book, which he is usually up for because Jesus was merciful and gave me an ambivert husband who adheres to a mostly introverted way of life. #praiseHim
However, after a long, taxing day, my kids generally have one of two plans:
- Find a way to drive me to my breaking point with their hooliganish behavior. OR…
- Need me in sweet and important ways that I can’t pass up because I am trying not to be the worst parent ever.
What I am hedging around here and yet trying not to admit is that I am selfish and want to be comfortable and wish the world could revolve around my needs/feelings/pain/comfort. But alas, life seems content with marching to the beat of its own drum, and not bowing its knee to me. I have often lamented that motherhood could be defined best with two words: Sacrificial Martyrdom. I know no better word picture for the struggle women all over the globe face daily.
So, when my elementary age daughter comes out of her room at 9:30pm and needs me because she’s feeling afraid in her bed, I find myself stuck with having to follow through on my good intentions at being a decent mother. The conversation usually goes like this:
Her: I’m scared.
Me: There’s nothing to be afraid of.
Her: I know, but I’m all alone and I don’t like it.
Me: You’re never alone. Jesus is with you, and I’m here in the other room.
Her: But I feel alone. Can I sleep in here?
Her: Can you come lie in my bed until I fall asleep?
Her: Well, what should I do?
These are the moments a mom has to think really fast and come up with mindblowing wisdom that exceeds her child’s expectations. The stakes are high, because even though I know that there are cosleeping people all over the world who adore the sweetness of their shared spaces, I am not one of them. I can barely sleep in the same bed as myself. When we travel internationally, I opt for rooms with two tiny beds to avoid sharing a “European double” bed that is roughly the width of a crib mattress. Here at home in the good ol’ USA, my husband is expected to stay on the farthest section of our king size bed, which in all honesty, is still not far enough away for me to sleep peacefully some nights.
But also, I must think fast because I know we are writing a guidebook for my daughter’s soul here. Fear is a big deal, and these kinds of questions don’t go away when we grow up and move out of our parents’ house. My daughter’s question hangs in the air between us, and I realize it is the same one I often ask, except I’m not afraid of being in my bed alone at night.
I’m afraid that all my insecurities will prove true. I’m afraid of what’s happening in our country, the way hatred and isolation seem to be growing like shadows we can’t seem to stomp out. I’m afraid that my best intentions will wind up not being enough. I’m afraid the way hope and love seem harder to live out than cynicism and apathy. I’m afraid of what cell phones are doing to our brains, of the loss we may face as farming becomes big business, of the rising costs of healthcare, and I am afraid of cockroaches, although that one seems less pressing until I face one of those demonic creatures in hand to hand combat in the shower. If the roach has wings, I know I am doomed.
Cockroaches and existential angst prove that I am my daughter in many ways.
So, what should I do when fear feels overwhelming? How can I make the fear flee from me? Where does safety grow and blossom?
The truest thing is this: Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Love makes fear flee from you, running in defeat back to the dark place it came from.
We are safe in the midst of the darkness because God is all around us, singing songs of love and victory over our lives (Zephaniah 3:18). He loved us before we were formed in our mother’s womb, and He knows everything about us (Psalm 139). He loved us so much He came to be our rescue (2 Timothy 4:18). He gave his own life for us, and asks us to live sacrificially for others (1 John 3:16). Jesus is always loving us to the very end (John 13:1), and His love never changes because He never changes (Hebrews 13:8).
This what I tell my daughter when I walk her back to her room and tuck her in. I snuggle her favorite bear up next to her and I give her very important instructions:
Me: Name them. Name all the people who love you. Name God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit our great Comforter. Name me and Daddy, your brothers and your grandparents. Name your aunts and uncles, your cousins, and all of your friends. Name the people at church who feel like family, and all our friends who have moved away, but who still feel like the best gifts in our lives. Then think of how many more people will someday be in your life, brought by God’s great love to you just to show you a tiny sliver of the eternal devotion He has promised to give you. Fear can’t stay in a heart as full of love as yours will be by the end of that list. And if it tries to stay, start over again.
Later I pass by her room on my way to the kitchen and I hear her in there, singing the names of the people who love her. This is how she drifts off to sleep, naming proofs of love, one person at a time. I’m not sure I have ever been so grateful for all the people who love our family well. The world will tell us that we don’t have to be afraid because we are strong and fierce, and anyone who messes with us will suffer the force of our power. But that kind of courage is isolating, and there is very little love to be received in being our own best savior.
Having a community of love around us is an irreplaceable sanctuary for our souls. And yet, even then, we will have to face fear sometimes. What I’m saying, is that it’s okay to be afraid sometimes.
I peek in her quiet room and then head to mine, to crawl back in my bed and open my book. I thank God for fear, and how it leads us to the lesson of love. In a strange way, fear is gift. It’s a door we must acknowledge and open so that we can receive the love we were made to live.
Then we get to walk right through that doorway into a wider wisdom, and that’s when we realize that eternal love proves fear can never be a threat to us at all. Not ever.