The first time Eli forgot his lunchbox I didn’t realize it until it was almost too late. I got to school just as the second graders were marching towards a smell that, in my opinion, was anything but appetizing. Imagine a wave of relief sweeping over a face. My boy looked at me through tears. “She said I had to buy my lunch. And that I had to eat it.”
I got that hen and her chick feeling, ready to peck away at the teacher who would be so mean as to tell my son he had to do anything, let alone eat that mess.
I never knew my son was quite so obedient!
It was a few months ago on a Sunday after I routinely asked Eli how Kid’s Chapel went that I was in the chicken coop all over again. He promptly said, with disdain written across his freckled nose, “They told us to think of the one thing that scared us the most. Then they made us draw it!”
Before allowing him to finish, I decided that was the craziest thing I’d ever heard. My feathers started to ruffle. This is church…a place where we should not have to discuss what makes us uncomfortable. I asked him to continue so that I knew exactly who I’d be giving a piece of my mind to.
“What did you draw?”
“Ch…” He hesitated, because he won’t say the word that scares him the most. “Ch…”
Somewhere along the way, and at someone’s house who will go unnamed to protect their innocently guilty self, he was on YouTube and found the movie trailer of that sick-o doll that comes to life and kills people. I can’t say or even type the name because it has been struck from our family’s vocabulary.
Just know that since stumbling on that horror, he has obsessed over it. If we pass the movie section at Target and he sees it on the shelf, he goes around it, hands covering his face. We banished everything with eyes from his room: teddy bears, nutcrackers, even a mirror. For months we dealt patiently with him at bedtime. No matter the prayers offered, he was not convinced that God cared because his pleas for this evil to leave his mind would not go away. Regi and I took turns laying down with him and singing happy songs as he drifted to sleep. We left lights on. He would sneak into his sister’s room and sleep with her. He would moan down from the upstairs railing saying that within fifteen seconds of closing his eyes he would have a terrible dream. Nighttime was a nightmare for us all.
It even culminated with him dragging his comforter and pillows into the hallway and sleeping for a couple of weeks. Night after night he lay between the wall and stair railing, bundled like a babushka in his blanket to protect him from the bad lurking around him.
About a week after he was forced to draw his deepest fear, I took some clothes to his room. His comforter lay in a crumpled mess on the floor. It struck me as odd because it was never that far from him at night.
Later he said, “Guess what, Mom? I didn’t sleep with my comforter around me last night. I don’t have to anymore. And You Know Who doesn’t bother me anymore!” Remember that swell of relief I mentioned? Now it came across my face.
That dreaded day in Kids Chapel something more happened. And after I untangled my tail feathers, Eli told me the rest of the story.
“What happened after you drew this terrible picture of …” I asked.
“There was this light that they [the leaders] shone on everything we drew. Then they held up all the pictures of our fears and ripped them to pieces. They shouted and we sang some songs and they said I don’t have to be afraid anymore. Jesus is bigger than my fears.”
I’ll be honest. After he told me what happened, I shrugged it off as a cute-little-act done in cute-little-children’s-church. I mean, if my prayers hadn’t worked by now, he could never grasp the significance of shredding his fears into tiny little pieces. Don’t most parents drop their kids off in class with the simple hope that they’ll make a friend and put their quarter in the offering so they can call it a day? You mean my big God shows up in little kids’ church?
While I’d like to say that Eli’s fears flew the coop the same night he drew that picture, it took a little time. It had to so that my grubby little fingerprints were nowhere to be seen on his miracle.
When we try to make everything so perfect and unnerving for our kids, we interfere with God’s desire to show them who He is. Our vain attempts to smooth the rough waters called life means they don’t get to experience Him as Protector, Healer, Provider and Savior for themselves! Eli needed to see the life altering effect that happened when he faced that creepy little doll through the mighty power of a mighty God by tearing his fear to pieces himself. I’d rather my kids face life with a few battle scars because they’ve learned how to fight than show up to battle without a single skill.
In conclusion…well, I really don’t how to conclude. This was intended to be a post on why I’m thankful for the Pastor Bill’s and Pastor Ian’s, the Brittany’s and the Amy’s, and all the others that call my kids by their name. Who pray for them. Who make them feel welcome every time they arrive. Who make church fun. And relevant. Who care enough to provide their lives as an example week after week. Who put up with chatty teenage girls who’d rather talk than pray. And who understand enough to show these kids that the same God who cares about mortgages and heart conditions is the same God who cares about boogeymen and midterms.
But truly this post is about what I’ve learned from my own children…again. So if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some pictures of my own to draw. And a lot of tearing up to do.