The last few weeks have been difficult. Last October was a bad-health-month (like a bad-hair-day, only like 1000 times worse), and it seems that this October followed suit. Maybe my illnesses have least favorite seasons. Being sick feels manageable some fraction of the time, but over the past month, it has NOT felt do-able. Yesterday was particularly bad, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I felt poured out, wrung out, and blown-dry with a hair dryer. I had what felt like nothing left. My husband was shivering in bed with 102-degree fever, sputtering, “Is this what chills feel like?” My children were acting like the three-year-old and two-year-old that they are, and I was dancing on the impatient side of parenting. I was not savoring each moment with them, that’s for sure.
Bed time is sacred time at our house. We read, rock, and sing about Jesus. The kids have special song requests, each one gets his and her own time in the rocking chair with mom, and I get to sniff their sweet little babyish heads before bed (I think that baby head-sniffing works better at calming my adrenaline rushes than any medication that I have found). In between Jesus songs, my daughter usually comes up with deep questions that I am not prepared for, like, “Mommy, what is death?”, or like, “How is Jesus going to come out of my heart so that I can sit on His lap and rub His beard like I rub daddy’s beard?”. I stutter and stammer for a few minutes, and then God in His wisdom usually helps me communicate some little nugget of truth that hopefully her three-year-old mind can comprehend. She deems my response acceptable, closes her eyes, and settles her fair curly head into the bend of my arm, safe and comforted, trusting that she knows enough now to rest for the night.
Bedtime last night did not feel sacred. I was an unholy terror, and I hurried and scolded my kids, stretched too thin in all angles. I just wanted to go to bed and have the day over. I was hurting physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and I was done fighting. Rocking a child, however, seems to be the antithesis of hurry. The act of sitting in glider with my son and singing a JJ Heller lullaby was enough to snap me out of my impatient self-centered focus. I pleaded with God to help me to be present with my children, at least for the final few minutes of their day. I sniffed his freshly washed hair for a couple seconds longer, and laid him in his crib with his blessing: “May the Lord bless you and keep you…”.
My daughter met me at the chair, and asked for the Jesus song. Which Jesus song? You know, mom, the one where Jesus is REALLY BIG. Where His face shines. I sing the hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”, and she sings the chorus with me word-for-word. After the song, my big-hearted prophetess child says with the concern and agony of a 25-year-old, “Mom, why does it feel like Jesus isn’t here? If it is so dark in this world, and Jesus is light, He can’t be here, can He? And Jesus is too big to be in my heart. He’s not in my heart. He’s too big. He would break my heart. Is Jesus not here?”
On this night, October 31st, a night of darkness, when barely three-year-old daughter questions the existence of her Savior, my throat swelled, and my eyes filled, and I said, “Baby, I know how you feel. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like Jesus is here, but He is. I promise. He promises. And it is dark, but His light is here.” I said a few more things. I felt a lot more things. She asked a few more despairing questions, and she finally settled into the tension of not seeing yet believing. She was okay. Jesus was with Her. She could rest.
I laid her down, tucked her princess comforter around her tiny body, blessed her, prayed over her and her brother, closed the door, and sobbed. OH, I know how she feels, but I never imagined that she would feel this so soon. But God met me in her questioning. In this dark night, full of pain in all forms, God met me through the need of my darling daughter. He answered my despairing questions through my own mouth as I answered her despairing questions. We will keep trusting. He is present. He is good. He loves us. He is sovereign. My sweet dreamers will learn to trust and hope, as I am learning to trust and hope, in the One who is present, gentle, and faithful. We can’t always see, but we know because we have seen undeniable manifestations of His goodness. We therefore
Turn our eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. (Helen H. Limmel, 1922).