"Mommy, how can Jesus take all of the scary things out of my head? He has such little hands! How can he get them all out with such little hands?"
Every night we pray that the scary things will stay away. We command them to stay away. I hover over her bed after she's asleep and pray that the scary things leave her alone.
"They have to leave. If Jesus says they have to leave, they have to. They don't have a choice. No matter how small his hands are. His voice is big."
The curse of an active imagination is that you actually believe what you imagine. So the wolves from Beauty and the Beast aren't just in her imagination - they're there. In her room. Hiding behind her rocking chair.
"But Mommy, the wolves come anyway. When I'm by myself they come out of my imagination and they want to hurt me."
Her eyes are wide. She blinks at me in the dark. How can I empower her to fight the forces of evil at three years old? I find myself wanting to cry out of sympathy for her being bullied by the fears in her heart, and also wanting to punch the devil in his *cough* sensitive area. I find myself seething with anger that he has been able to screw with my little girl and I want to rip off his supernatural fingernails. LEAVE HER ALONE. I want to whisper fiercely, but she's staring at me and waiting for me to tell her why she's safe - why she doesn't have to be afraid. And I don't have a good answer.
I want to tell her that nothing will ever happen to her. That I won't let it. I want to tell her Jesus will protect her from anything that might try to harm her. I want her to feel safe and secure and not be afraid. I want her little heart to be at peace and for her to believe that nothing will happen to her.
But how can I assure her of those things when I don't believe them. I've seen too much, tasted grief and disappointment in the most bitter ways. I don't believe that she will always be safe, that no harm will come to her. I want to, but I can't. I have no guarantee that a moment of distraction or an unanticipated little girl impulse won't put her in harms way. I can't be sure that sickness or an accident or the evil intent of another person won't rip her precious life from mine.
And that thought haunts me. It is my wolf lurking behind the rocking chair, waiting to pounce when I am vulnerable and by myself.
My wolf whispers questions in my quiet thoughts, refuting my beliefs with hard cold evidence of disappointed hopes, unanswered prayers, devastating tragedies.
How do I reconcile my life's experience with the promises of a Good Father? And how can I help my baby girl relax into sleep when her fears so eerily echo my own?
"The scary things can't come," I tell her. "They aren't allowed. The Bible tells us that if we ask anything in Jesus' name it will be given to us. The scary things have to listen to us. You are safe. Jesus loves you. He won't let anything happen to you. I would never leave you somewhere where you are not safe."
That last thing - that I wouldn't leave her somewhere unsafe - seems to help. She nods and I kiss her forehead. I show her the clock and tell her I will be back to check on her in five minutes. I tell her what the numbers will look like when I come back. I tell her I will leave the door open. She pulls the blankets up to her nose and nods again.
"I love you. Jesus loves you. I'm so proud of you. I'm so glad I'm your mommy."
I am realizing that she doesn't trust Jesus because she doesn't really know him yet. She's beginning to - I am teaching her who He is with each conversation. Each time I turn to him when I am frustrated, each time I thank him out loud for his goodness, each time I follow him in obedience and faith, I show her he is trustworthy. I want her to know that he's more than a magic genie or a benefactor you have to be sure to thank or he might withhold the next time. She's getting to know him, but she doesn't know him yet. She doesn't trust him yet and that's okay. She trusts me, though, and I trust him. So someday I hope that her trust in me - and what I say and do - will give way to her trusting Jesus.
I hope that someday she will use the knowledge that Jesus loves her to combat the demons. But for now, she'll just have to use my love. Which is okay because I love because he first loved me. And I am the branch and he is the vine. I am the conduit of her Maker's love for her.
I think of her verse, The One who formed you says, "Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name, You Are Mine." Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid.
I whisper it to myself. Do not be afraid. But there is so much to fear! Do not be afraid. How? How can I not fear when I have witnessed my friends living my greatest nightmares - when I have lived some of my own? Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have ransomed you. Do not be afraid could be better translated, Do not be a slave to fear. Do not be afraid because you have been given freedom from your fears. You have been ransomed - set free.
I don't have to understand why my children are spared poverty and hunger and others aren't. I don't have to understand why some mamas' prayers of protection don't seem to yield the desperately hoped for results. I don't need to fear that my number just hasn't been called yet - that eventually I will be the one mourning my own personal tragedy. All I need to understand is that I am ransomed from the tyranny of fear. I can look the world's brokenness and evil in the face and say, "I will not fear, for my Shepherd is with me. He has ransomed me. Whom shall I fear?"
It doesn't mean I am immune to the dangers and tragedies of this world. It just means that I don't have to let fear dictate my life. I don't have to live in fear. It's a choice. I know some of my fears are founded, but I can choose to dwell on them or to release them into the hands of the One I trust with my soul.
But for Lila, three is far too young to grasp the things that grown-ups can't even make sense of. What good would it do for her to know that some of her fears could become a reality? What good would it do her to tell her that she might die? That I might? Or that the people we love are not permanent fixtures in our lives? She will face some of those fears soon enough. I pray she does not face many of them. But if she does, then I will tell her about her choice: to trust that Jesus is who he says he is and to choose faith over fear.
Until then, I want her heart to be at peace. I want to train her to battle against her fears, to take charge and force them to retreat. Because we may not be able to keep our lives tragedy free, but we can keep fear at bay. We can employ the Name that has been given to us - spoken over us - to fight the fears with His goodness.
So I will assure her that she need not fear - because that is no lie. She need not fear because Jesus is with her. And when he's with her she doesn't have to be afraid of anything. He may have small hands in her mind, but he has a Big Voice. And when he speaks, Darkness retreats.