When the Lights Go Out and Jesus Isn’t Enough

Lightbulb quote

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.”


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

37 thoughts on “When the Lights Go Out and Jesus Isn’t Enough

    1. Thank you Richelle. The myriad of lessons learned through parenting could hardly fit in a book — so grateful for the many ways God has gently and not so gently reminded me things through my children!


  1. Marilyn, you have such a gift. Thank you for this article. I needed to be reminded of this today. I am so enjoying reading your older posts at this chapter in my life. Keep up the wonderful insights to all of us on this journey.


    1. Jeri – what a lovely and well-timed comment :) I cannot tell you enough how much I appreciate your words and the timing. So it’s mutual! Thinking of you today.


  2. Marilyn – this is brilliant, and so thoughtful. I’m a grown man who was once that little boy…
    Thanks for posting this.


  3. Love the intro story. Living Jesus with our kids is far more important than talking about Him, though they both have their place. If we talk about Him, but don’t live Him, we run the risk of hardening our kids’ hearts.


    1. Ohhhh – you are so right. I think just like the story suggest it’s hard because it takes time and the extra mile when we’re tired. And the reality is — we can only do this by grace. Thanks Jocelyn.


  4. This not only gives me new reason to show my international friends the true meaning of Christmas, the coming of God in the flesh, but makes me feel better about the fact that we aren’t the only ones who stayed with our kids until they fell asleep. I wasn’t being a wimpy parent who couldn’t let them cry themselves to sleep, I was being the skin of Jesus! (Well, maybe we were a little wimpy!)


    1. Haha! I have to confess to one time for each of them when they were little babies to letting them cry – but in defense, we set the timer and never let it go more than 5 minutes. All it took was one time and they got that their cribs were their happy places. But this was a real eye opener for me. I remember sitting on his bed with my mouth open in shock.
      On another note – I love Christmas for it’s chances to have people over so I love your words about your international friends. Somehow we’re more focused during this time and make more of an effort. Thanks Anne.


  5. Love this so much Marilyn. I doubt that any human being is ever far from God’s “mind,” but your interpretation of the incarnation fits so well with our everyday experiences of being human beings in a huge universe. We all need to feel skin! –NK


    1. Thank you Patti – it really has stayed with me all these years. (He’s now 17….!) I’ve never written it out before which helped strengthen the lesson for me.


  6. I think realizing that we need to be the hands and feet of Jesus, the skin of God, is one of the most important things to learn in our lives. When we are the skin of Jesus we can help people and represent who he is by doing something for the people around us. I know that often I don’t realize how much I need to be the skin of Jesus, but when I am it helps people in ways that I never imagined.

    This is such a well-written post and I really love it!


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