You’ve tucked your child in bed.
An hour later, you hear those familiar little footsteps…
What you do next could have a big impact on our child’s heart.
Last year, our 7 year old son went through a long season in which he couldn’t fall asleep at night.
He would try, honest.
Yet every night, when the old farmhouse was quiet for the night and his siblings were sleeping peacefully, our son would climb down from his top bunk in the boys’ room, come find us and say, “I just can’t fall asleep. There’s too much on my mind.”
Some nights, we’d just send him right back upstairs. “Keep trying!” we’d say. On our better nights – when we were miraculously patient – we’d listen as he talked about his fears, his joys, his wrestlings with God, his questions about faith. Then, he’d say, “The worst part is that once I start thinking about these things, I realize that I’m not sleeping yet and it gets me really upset!”
God meets us in our sleeplessness.
And then, one night, something dawned on me that changed everything. I wrapped my arms around our son and savored the inner thoughts of a boy not unlike King David, not unlike Samuel in the temple of the Lord. When they couldn’t sleep, David and Samuel discovered that God Himself was pursuing them in the quiet of the night.
I told him so.
“Son, you remind me of King David. Do you know that he would toss and turn in bed? He wrote many psalms from the joys, tears, and wrestlings that would come to his mind when he’d lay his head on his pillow at night.”
We read Psalm 6:6.
“I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.”
and Psalm 63:5-8
“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.”
“I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.”
and Psalm 4:4
“Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah”
Maybe the quiet time before sleep is a holy time when God has our kiddo’s full attention.
“Sweetheart, your sleeplessness could be a blessing from the Lord. What would happen if you accepted it? What would happen if you turned toward our Heavenly Father to pray, rejoice, cry, repent, and thank Him?”
I contrasted this option to that of stewing, worrying, and over-thinking things.
“Try not to think too hard”.
I told him this story about a guy in a hot air balloon:
“Did you know that there’s actually a phrase, “Try not to think too hard?” It’s referring to those times when people fixate on something so intently and then freak out. Imagine someone up in a hot air balloon. He has waited his whole life to ride in that balloon. The weather is perfect and the balloon sails through the sky peacefully. But while he’s up there, he begins to notice how small and fragile the basket is. He notices the fire being torched above his head over and over again. He thinks about how dangerous this is. He looks at the thin silk of the balloon and the manmade ropes that are holding everything together. He looks down and notices that the earth is many, many feet below him. These thoughts begin to crowd in on him. He’s afraid he’s going to fall and there is nothing he can do!
And then, he freaks out. I mean, really, freaks out!
Imagine how dangerous it would be for him to lose control way up there in a hot air balloon. Imagine what would happen if he cried, screamed, kicked, or jumped out of the balloon that was peacefully saving him. Imagine how his opportunity to sail across the sky would be ruined by his fear and overthinking.
He needs someone to calmly say to him, “Try not to think too hard about this”.
He needs to take a deep breath and to be strong in his mind.
He needs to trust God.
To notice the beauty all around.
To relax and enjoy the ride.”
A few months later…
Sometimes a child’s once-intense struggle will suddenly disappear… and we don’t even notice. That’s what happened with this. Weeks had passed without those late night footsteps creaking down the stairs, without the calming conversations, but I hadn’t even noticed the difference.
Then one night when I was tucking the children into bed, making my rounds with songs, prayers, lotion, and cups of water, that sweet and strong 7 year old boy lifted his head from the pillow and said, “You know, Mom, I never told you how much our conversation helped me. Ever since, when I lay down to go to sleep, I always think about that hot air balloon. I tell myself not to think too hard and I decide to spend my time with the Lord instead of getting so upset.”
How comforting to be a human in the care of our ever-watchful Heavenly Father.
How deeply comforting.
“In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8