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

Meditation from a Reader

From a CAB Reader on Pieces of Childhood

One of the lessons of the Incarnation (God become human) is that the material world isn’t intrinsically bad or ‘evil’. Matter matters. It is the material world by which Christianity finds the vehicle of its redemption and grace. Thanks be to God.

So holding on to a few significant items, and/or mourning their loss, is appropriate and in a real sense, part of the Christian tradition. This is what allows us with confidence to say ‘this is my body, this is my blood….’ From outtasiteoutamind.

Resting in Truth this Saturday! 

Fractions of Understanding

Every once in a while I am given the gift of understanding a fraction more about the incarnation and incarnational living. Over this past holiday I experienced one of these fraction gifts.

Prior to going to Cairo we were asked many times “Is it safe?” “Are you sure you should go?” The queries grew more urgent in tone as Egypt began making news headlines the week before we left. While I believe that safety is a relative term, I appreciated the concern.  But safety didn’t enter into our decision. We wanted to see our oldest daughter and experience her world. Where did she live? Shop? Eat? Who were her friends? What was daily life like? What are her current joys and struggles? We wanted to experience these because we love her. We don’t want to be absent from or oblivious to her world.

It was this epiphany of sorts that struck me as I entered gladly into her world. That God, in his love for us, wanted to experience life as it was like for us with our human bodies and boundaries. That he entered gladly through the person of Christ to live out the joys and struggles of life locked within the limitations of the human body. This is the story of incarnation.

Through visiting Annie and entering her world I know more than I ever could from talking with her. I have met her friends – I know their names. I have seen where she lives – I know she is on the 9th floor with a view of the Mokhattam Hills. I know she has an elevator that can break down and send the passenger into a raw fear. I know the places where she eats and shops, I have seen the faces and eyes of men who ogle her and know the blind rage that she has felt at being seen as an object, nothing more than a piece of meat. I experienced the boundaries she lives with as a single woman in a predominantly Muslim country. I saw the limitations she has in the area of the city where she lives, where barbed wire and walls are placed without notice blocking movement. I felt her frustration with the nonstop crowds when she feels she needs space. I learned about her world. I felt what she felt, saw what she sees, ate where she eats and walked the steps that she walks. I had the joy and struggle of being locked in her world.

I have not just heard about her life, I have experienced her life, walking with her through her neighborhood and beyond.

A couple of years after the 9/11 attacks on the twin towers, there was a terrorist attack on the International Church in Islamabad, Pakistan. There were several of our friends present in the church that day, one was the father of Robynn Bliss who readers know from several guest posts. Another was a friend of ours who was there with her husband and small children. In the attack she shielded her small child from flying shrapnel and was severely injured in the process.  In a poignant letter describing the event, she tells of her response. “I had always thought it was ‘hard-nosed’ of God to allow His son to be offered as a sacrifice for us and experience the pain and death of the cross instead of us”. She went on to say that in that moment, protecting her child was her greatest joy, the thing she wanted to do more than anything. To save him despite the cost to her  – a severe injury and punctured lung. In wonder she realized that it is God’s great joy to send Jesus – who wrapped his body around us as it were, so that we would be saved from the sin shrapnel that would kill us.  The cost for her was great, but nothing in comparison to the joy of saving her child.

The wonder of incarnation – whether understood through walking in the shoes of a daughter and understanding her world, or protecting a child at the cost of great injury and potential death. All of these are picture gifts to help me in my finite mind and ability to understand a fraction more of  the mystery and wonder of the incarnation – to comprehend a bit more of the ultimate love that walked this path willingly. Fractions of understanding – not a full picture but an important piece of the whole.

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32