I was tucking him in tight, sheets pulled up to his chin, blanket over the sheet, pillow fluffed. His attic bedroom was a chilly room and his toddler body was curled up tight.
I had read. We had done the “Great green room” and “a telephone and a red balloon and a picture of a cow jumping over the moon,” several times.
I had sung.
I had prayed.
Time to go. Time to turn out the light and go downstairs where four other kids waited for bedtime tea and talk.
“Mommy, I scawwed.”
“Jonathan you don’t need to be scared. The boys are right next door. I’m right downstairs.”
“Mommy, I still scawwed.”
“Jonathan, Jesus will be with you.”
“I hate Jesus.”
BAM! OUCH! WHAT??
This was not the way this bedtime scenario was supposed to go. My words were supposed to comfort. These were the words of a good Christian mama – Or were they?
I suddenly saw things from this tow-headed toddler’s perspective.
The light was out, mom was leaving, and Jesus wasn’t enough.
Each night I read. I sang. I prayed. And then I told him Jesus would be with him, shut off all the lights and left him alone in a cold room. In his mind, left alone in the dark with Jesus, he was cold and scared. Jesus was proving a poor bedfellow.
No wonder at that moment he hated Jesus.
It was this pivotal night that turned around our bedtime routine. I found a night-light. I tucked him in tight. I told him we were right downstairs. I prayed with him. I shut off the light and, with night-light glowing, I stayed until I saw his eyes close. I no longer left him in the dark with a cold-hearted “Jesus is with you.”
I have many parenting stories, many tales of my inept parenting and resilient kids, but this is one of my favorites.
For it served as a good reminder – a reminder that Jesus needs skin and we are that skin, to our children and to others. A reminder that there have been times when I have translated the original bedtime routine to others. I have in essence patted them on the back, made appropriate noises and told them Jesus would be with them. And I imagine them saying to my back as I walked away, so busy with other things, “I hate Jesus” for what they needed was me being His hands and His feet, me offering bread and tea, comfort and love, a heart of compassion, but most of all — being present and offering a night-light.
The light is out in their lives and Jesus isn’t enough.
And isn’t this why there was an Incarnation to begin with? Because the lights were out, and it was cold and dark. We lay in our beds curled up, far from God. And God knew we needed Him with skin on.
Every year at Advent we set aside time to remember the coming of God incarnate. Remember that everything changed when this baby was born. Remember that people still need to see the mystery of God incarnate lived and offered — a night-light and presence to replace the dark, fear, and cold by offering light, safety, and warmth.
This Advent season, may we be a people who sit for awhile, offering ourselves and our full presence, who bring a night-light so people can see Jesus.
*From the beloved children’s book Goodnight Moon.
This post is linked up with The Parent ‘Hood hosted by Kelly at Love Well blog. http://www.lovewellblog.com/2012/12/me-and-my-shadow.html