She laid in her bed crying, late one night this summer. 10 years old. Too young to have to deal with the imperfections and fears of her parents.
Life is far too hard, far too unfair.
In spite of what gets posted on social media. Or the “yeah, we’re doing great” you hear at the grocery store or the church coffee line.
Especially on little people.
“I know you’re afraid, tell me what you’re scared of…” I hesitantly asked.
I already knew the answer.
“You and mommy.” came out through a bucket of tears.
Yeah, that was the one I knew she’d say.
It had been a tough day, a tough few days in fact with me and mommy. Hell, she knows it’s been a tough couple years.
I squeezed her tight, buried my ear in her ear. Pressed my cheek into her cheek. Felt her tears hit my fearful, frozen, frankly numb face.
For her own life and protection, the details of the next few minutes will remain in that bedroom, but I will share this.
It’s freeing to admit to your own kids that you’re clumsy, crooked, and imperfect but loving the best you can.
I said, “It feels shaky doesn’t it?”
It was the easiest answer she gave all night.
Of course it feels shaky.
“There’s a strong, solid ground under all the shakiness. I promise. You can trust it’s there, even when it feels like it all may fall. It’s there. And down there, you’ll find love. Not fear.”
I said the words out loud. I mostly meant them in my heart. I for sure doubted if the solid ground was going to show up in my own life.
After she calmed down and fell asleep, I went on a long walk that dark, scary night.
In the middle of suburbia, it’s tough to find stretches of darkness, spots where street lights and porch lights and three car garage lights aren’t brightly projecting an image of safety and “it’s all gonna be ok”.
But around one of the corners, in between neighborhoods, a deep, dark field was illuminated by a full moon and a million fireflies.
It stopped me in my fearful tracks.
The field was more dark than light. The darkness was heavy, hovering even.
Kinda like my soul that night.
But yet, the light was lighting the way. The big, full moon and the endless flickering dance of the fireflies.
I don’t know about you, but for me, when I focus on the darkness, it just gets darker.
The fear invites the darkness and it invades even the brightest of days.
But in that mostly dark bedroom with our 10-year-old and in that mostly dark field that night, a light switched on for me. Or at least it dimly appeared in ways that seemed helpful for the moment.
It’s a verse in the oldest of books. One that gets put on coffee cups and book marks when stuff feels “ok”.
But in the darkness, it spoke to me, “only perfect love casts out fear.”
Not minimize the fear. Or coddle it. Or tell the fear that it’s not real.
Oh, it’s real all right.
But more like a 6-word banner that screams in the darkness to cast that fearful sh** out. Like make no room for it and flood the fear with light. Set it aside for something greater. Make way for something new.
“Quit being afraid” is such unhelpful advice. I’ve tried it, believe me. It seems the only thing that line of thinking does is have fear invite a friend over and throw a terrifying party.
But feeling perfectly loved, perfectly accepted, perfectly secure in spite of your dark parts? Yeah, that feels like solid ground, not a shaky foundation.
The kind of ground that casts fear out.
Even when there is more darkness than light.