When I was a little girl, I dreaded nighttime. My disdain for the night had nothing to do with the normal aversion most children have about bedtime. I never had a “bedtime.” I didn’t like the night because I didn’t like the dark. Darkness was alarming. It swallowed all the light. It whispered confusion about what was what. Were the shadows on the wall trees or monsters? I slept with all the lights on, or kept cartoons blaring on our old big box TV. Monsters can’t come out if Looney Tunes are on. It’s a rule.
My fear of the dark subsided as I got older. Now, I embrace the night. As the sun begins to set and paint swirls of purple and orange in our Arizona sky, I am ready for nightfall. The night is lovely. Nighttime means bedtime, and unlike me, my children have a bedtime.
I love when my children are sleeping, and that’s not because they are quiet, and I have the certainty that nothing is going to get messy while they sleep. I love their noise and I love their mess. I’m not sure why. Trust me, you are good mama even if you don’t love the noise or the mess. I just happen to like it. I love their way their playful screams bounce off our thin walls. I love the way they throw their heads back and laugh uninhibited. I love the way they jump from couch to couch rumbling all the cushions. I love the way they dance and cartwheel into each other.
My children are like bursts of color.
Vibrant and free.
I love when they are sleeping because that is my favorite time to pray over them. In the darkness, I get to call upon the Light of the world and sing His words over each of them. I get to trace a tiny cross upon their foreheads and lay my hand on their sweet little heads that smell like cocoa butter.
During that time, I think of the events of the day. Usually the events in the world that are heavy and cumbersome. Basically, I think of the darkness that is still alarming even as an adult. The darkness that does still whisper confusion, not monsters on the wall, but monsters that take broken hearts and make them inflict pain in the world.
Then, I look at my children. My little bursts of color, and joy, and freedom. My little ones that when they were born it was like God saying again and again, “Let there be light.”
I pray that they be peacemakers. I pray that they walk step by step alongside Jesus and work with Him as healers. I pray that their little mouths spill words dripping with grace and wisdom. I pray that their eyes see Him and truly love their neighbors. All their neighbors. Not just the neighbors that are easy to love. Not just the neighbors that sit next to them in the pews at Mass, or Bible studies, or in our circles of people who love Jesus too. Of course we love them.
I pray that they go out into the places in the world where it’s dark and bring light. The places that as a mama I want to shield them from forever, but I won’t because they don’t belong to me. They belong to Jesus and as they grow up, He has work for them to do.
So, while they sleep peacefully in warm beds surrounded by stuffed animals and comfort, I pray that they will grow up to be the ones who love the hurting.
I pray they love the poor, the addicted, and the imprisoned.
I pray they love the drug dealers, the prostitutes, and the atheists.
I pray they love the immigrant, their fellow Americans, and everyone in between.
I pray they love Republicans, Democrats, and everyone in between.
I pray they remember that Jesus loves all those people, suffered for all those people, and has redemption for every single one of them.
Then I kiss their heads and the night gets brighter.
I have been thinking a lot of this upcoming election season and all the discord that’s about to go down.
Lord have mercy.
My mouth goes sour thinking of all the words that will be spewed by good people with good hearts who will say all kinds of ugly things and believe all kinds of ugly things about their neighbors.
I wonder what I would tell my children if they asked how to avoid all that nastiness.
I don’t have all the answers, or even a fraction of them, but I think I would say this…
Settle down with the screens, the social media, the noise. I know it’s tempting but there are better things to do and better ways to love. Read books that make you laugh. Have dinner with friends, and listen to them, and share. If you want to debate, then debate across a table with good food, and hug each other after because some conversations are hard. Go outside and rest in the goodness of God’s creation. Hope more. Pray more. See Jesus more. Be humble. Be kind. Be wise. Be human.
Roll up your sleeves and do some Jesus work.
Grace upon grace and peace of Jesus to you all.