Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Teachable Moment: Fears in the night

This just happened five minutes ago. It's parenting lessons in real time on the blog tonight.

What's funny is that in a good parenting moment, I don't usually feel like I know exactly what to say to my child. I hash it out as I go. (Don't we all?) And often, like tonight, as I walk through a sticky situation, what I believe materializes even more clearly.

When I teach some important truth to my child, I reteach it to myself.

Know what I mean?

My son, who gets up typically a few times every night for all the reasons you'd guess, just came out of his room to ask if there could possibly be any "emergencies" tonight. Last night, by the way, he came out to ask if I was doing anything that could cause a fire.

I know this boy like the back of my hand, and I can basically read his mind, at least in this area. This is what's happening. He is lying in bed, restless and awake (just like I am for a good hour before sleeping), letting his mind get carried away with fears. For a while, he was afraid of someone coming in his window (I have NO idea how he landed on that creepy possibility. We don't talk about those kinds of sad stories, or even watch the news. I say it's straight from the enemy.) But lately, his fears are more home disaster themed.

So while I held him, I was tempted - SO tempted - to make promises I couldn't keep. For instance, as a loving, nurturing mommy who wants more than anything for her child to feel safe and secure, it's so tempting to say:

"Oh, honey. Nothing like that is going to happen."
"Awww, our house isn't going to catch on fire. You're perfectly safe."
"Little buddy, daddy and I aren't going to let anything bad happen to you."

As if we have total control. The more I was tempted to give him false reassurances, the more I began to flat out REFUSE to tell my child something that wasn't 100% bullet proof. As my heart ruffled through all the possible responses to his fears, I only had one thing left to say to him. It was like I pulled every piece of paper out of the file cabinet until only one remained.

(And by the way, I didn't say this all sappy and sweetly. I took his bony shoulders in my hands, looked him in the eye, and used my serious voice.)  I said, "I can't tell you what's going to happen because I don't know the future. But I DO know the most important thing, the only thing I can promise you: God loves you, bud. He sees you, he knows what you need, and HE is a bigger, stronger protector than even daddy and I."

He asked more questions, not quite getting it. Alright, he's only 7. He pressed the "fire" thing, still wondering if my husband or I EVER do any activities at night that could lead to a fire. He even said, "So what are the other things that can cause a fire..." No. I continued to REFUSE to entertain and feed the fear gripping his heart. I told him instead he needed to STOP the fears by talking to God and then trusting Him, because He is BIGGER and STRONGER than anything that could happen.

Friends, I will not tell him life will be all sunshine and rainbows. There are horrible floods in the south right now. We could have a record-breaking earthquake in the middle of the night. I know people who have lost everything to house fire. EVERYTHING. When my son asked with terror in his eyes, "Well, if we have a fire, will I be able to grab my stuff?" Don't you think every bit of my being wanted to say "YES! You'll always have your blankies and your guys and your favorite Legos." That's what he wanted to hear. But do I want him to lean on lies or on Jesus? That is the question I had to ask in the moment.

I want Him to lean on Jesus. And that's it.

Because one day, fear of losing his blankie will become fear of losing his job.
Fear of someone coming in his window will become fear of someone breaking his heart.
And the list goes on.

I knew tonight I needed to water that one seed that was planted a few years ago in his heart....a seed of faith.

Faith needs roots to weather the real, ripping storms of life. And roots grow when one's faith is tried.

I'm choosing to step into my little buddy's faith-trying storm, not shield him from it.

Lord have mercy, because I'm sure it's not the last time.

linking up with Amanda, here {a tad late}


  1. period. I flat out refuse (most of the time anyway) to tell my daughter lies too, even if they seem more comforting or easier to explain. the only sure thing she'll ever have is Jesus and though it might not make much physical sense to a 3 year old, I pray it takes deep root in her tiny heart. thank you for this reassurance. it's hard but at least I know I'm on the right track :)

  2. Good words and they are stepping on my toes. I honestly hadn't thought that much about my response to such things. I will have to think much more carefully about the answers I give my son. Thank you.

  3. Thank you for sharing this, it's so much easier to simply say that everything is going to be fine but we really have no way of knowing that. This makes me think of something I read in Give them Grace, all that we go through with our kids is an oppurtunity to teach them and then relearn ourselves the grace of God.

    I had lots of irrational fears in the night as a child, I could have used your kind and truthful mom words to me way back then! I will remember these when I battle fear myself.

    Thank you friend!

  4. Amen! My son is only 3 but fear is definitely something he struggles with. Rather than give him false promises, we turn to Jesus. We pray and then we stop entertaining the fear. He usually sleeps better on nights when we have to deal with this.

  5. Lord, Leslie. It's like a serious gem every time your hands hit the keyboard. Work on that book...I need to read it soon! HA!

  6. I love this!! It is tempting to give our kids easy answers but it is worth eternity to tell them the TRUTH and allow their faith to grow! I love what you said about not telling him life will be sunshine and rainbows. Amen! I've seen too many people fall away from faith when bad things happen simply b/c they were told the lie that life should be easy as Christians. You are giving him a firm foundation!

  7. I came to your blog via Casey. Wow...your writing just tugged on my heart. We have been dealing with similiar issues with our oldest. Great words!

  8. thank you for sharing this...I'm teary-eyed reading it, I totally get that "I'll protect you from everything" desire we have as parents. So thankful we can tell our kids that God will ALWAYS take care of us and give us what we much freedom in that! Thanks for sharing...I was blessed.

  9. what a great reminder to stand with Truth, even when sometimes we just went to be lazy.
    thank you for the reminder. :)

  10. Hello friend! First of all, I'm honored that you linked up! Secondly, this is an amazing post - so full of truth, and hard truth too. My parents were very intentional to not be dishonest with my brother and me, and as I got older I realized how important that is. Thank you for speaking from the heart, from the Spirit.

  11. Came to see your blog from your guest post at Casey's... i cannot tell you how many times i got a knot in my throat reading this post - i do not have children yet, but my new husband and i do want them in a few years once he is out of the military and we are a little more into our marriage (obviously God has the master plan... but that is our idea so far)... and i want NOTHING MORE than to do exactly what you did with your little guy in this crucial moment of fear from the enemy... i want to point our children to Jesus and his power over everything and teach them that nothing else TRULY matters other than that fact and that should be our hope and our security. such a beautiful post - and i am definitely going to follow along :) love your heart & excited to hear more about your parenting and your life! xo!! B

  12. amen friend. you speak truth, as always. to us and to your children. I unfortunately used to battle fear in a majorly a stronghold kind of way that required supernatural deliverance. SO when Abigail deals with any fears, we do the same you did....promising the only things we know: that no matter what, God loves you, and no matter what, God's nature is good. I used to think the opposite of fear was "not fearing" or even "peace". BUt its not, it is LOVE. "Perfect love casts our fear..." 1 John 4:18. It wasn't "not being afraid" that freed me from the spirit of was understanding the deepness of His love. I have such a desire to share this with my children. I want them to be free from the generational thing I had to carry myself!! You are such a good mama and a great encouragement to us all.

    1. that should be: "Perfect love casts OUT fear". amen and amen!!!!!

  13. i've lived this scenario a few times. thank God for the opportunities to lead them in Truth.
    praying your boy absorbs the truth into his being and lives (and rests) in confidence and peace in Christ Jesus. Amen.

  14. Twice tonight, in two different places on the web, I've read something you wrote and it was something I needed-- more than I even knew beforehand-- to hear. Or read. :)

    Fear grips every part of my being sometimes. I was sitting at a rest stop restaurant (on our way home from a ballgame) today...eating with my family, thinking about what my escape route would be with my two kids if I heard gun shots. How freaky, I know:). That is just where I've put my mind, kinda trained it that way. Unintentionally, I guess. But, I live in fear all the time and I see it grow in my kids-- and I hate that.

    When we pray, they have to insert there 'natural disaster' list..."Please don't let there be fire, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, our house, our families house, or sad, poor people's houses." (At least they aren't just thinking of themselves;)...But, I realized that while those things are fine to pray about, our prayers become a list of fears, demands, and grips on our Father's will. Like, we can't just let go, have faith, and trust in Him. And the most upsetting thing is that I know it all stems back to my own desire to control God and what He has planned for our lives.

    Thanks for your posts (here and Casey's blog). I think it was a world of encouragement to my heart. It is nice to know that I'm not alone in this-- even if you are past it now. It is nice to know that fear can be smooshed away by Christ:). Thanks for making that evident.

    Sorry to write a book. I wasn't going to comment here, but figured writing out my thoughts would help me to feel like we talked a little about them:). That always helps, just to blab:).

    Big hugs in Christ.

  15. Thank you for speaking truth, the kind that leads to hope in Christ. Your words here and on Casey's blog spoke straight to my heart. Thank you for listening to God's prompting and sharing what will encourage many just like me.