It was late at night when I was finally getting ready for bed last Saturday. I’d said goodnight to my parents and then headed to my brother’s room to collect my dog. (He likes to keep our pets until I go to bed. It’s our new ritual.) I had guilt on my heart – I had scared him by shutting off all the lights right after his shower as a joke, not knowing how scared he would actually be. He wouldn’t tell me why he was so afraid, so I teased him about it. I know we’re siblings and we tease each other all the time, but this round felt bad. I told myself that if he was still awake, I’d apologize.
I opened his door quietly and checked. He was asleep. I sighed, leaned over to give him a kiss on the cheek, and jumped when I felt his hand hold onto my arm. “Do you really want to know?” he asked, his eyes opening and landing on my face. I nodded, pet our dogs lightly, and focused my full attention on him.
He explained his bad dream, how it had been pitch black and this thing was coming from the ground and reaching him. Actually, he didn’t say “thing.” He called it the devil, and he was afraid of it. I nodded and started asking him questions: “Did it touch you? Were you afraid in the dream? Did you wake up before it could touch you? Did you pray when you woke up?” He’d been nodding yes to my first questions, but shrugged and shook his head no at the last question. I was tired and it was late, but I knew this was important.
I explained to him how God pulled him out of that dream. The devil cannot touch him because he is a child of God. He is protected by the Father for as long as he keeps God in his heart. (At church, our pastor mentioned that we draw our protection from God as long as we continue to seek Him. The longer we go without keeping the Father in our lives, the further away from His protection we get.) We continued talking about his prayer life, about whether he has accepted Christ into his heart. Then we talked about what that meant – to accept Christ. It’s a lot for a twelve-year-old boy to understand…. it’s a lot for an almost twenty-six-year-old woman to understand. I told my brother that I pray the sinner’s pray almost every week – not because I’m unsure of my salvation, but because I want to continue to invite Christ into my life. I made the mistakes before of sealing off doors of my life to Him. I thought I knew better, that my way was the right way. I explained that to my brother, making sure that I didn’t give too many details that could distract him from the point of our talk.
We talked about fear, and how we shouldn’t let that control our hearts and minds. We talked about how the worst thing that could happen to us on this Earth would be dying. And then he said: “But when we die we go to heaven, so that’s a good thing in the end.” I couldn’t have said it better. Then he asked: “I just hope it won’t hurt too long or too bad.” I sighed and nodded and then replied: “Yeah, but it’s nothing Jesus didn’t go through, too. He was beaten and broken and hung up for us. There is nothing you can go through without Him having done it first. Of course, we all want to go to heaven in our sleep, but even if it doesn’t happen that way you are never alone in it.”
Then, I leaned over to kiss him goodnight again; I whispered a small reminder to say his bedtime prayers. He grasped my arm again and asked me to pray with him. In that small moment, it didn’t matter what time it was or how tired I was. I nodded, asked him if he wanted to go first (he didn’t), and then I began praying. I started with thanks: “Thank You, God, for our many blessings – those we have already received and those You have yet to give us. Thank You for our family, our friends, and our pets. Thank You for Your guidance and Your protection. As we get ready for bed, I ask that You shield our minds from unwanted dreams and thoughts. I ask that You continue to protect us all night, and help us slip into our dreams quickly.” Then I nudged him to continue. When we said amen I gave him another kiss, scooped up my dog, and closed the door behind me.
I know it’s easy to get swept up in our fears, our worries, and our concerns. I know it’s easy to forget that no problem is too big for God. I also know how easy it is to get overwhelmed when we’re struggling with bills, family, and trying to have a social life. The ease of keeping these problems makes it difficult to trust that someone else can take care of them. But that’s also the best part. We don’t have some random person that we can’t trust to take care of our worries and our strife. We have God. We have the awesome creator who can walk on water, who loves us more than we can imagine, who WANTS to take on our problems and show us how good life can be. We just have to let go and let Him.
Thank You for the small moments I get to share with my brother. I hope these lead to memories he can rely on when he needs them. Thank You for answering my prayers when I ask You to grant me the right words to tell him. I know I’m not the best at letting go of the control I try to have, but I’m working on it and I’m pretty sure my brother sees that. Lord, thank You for always being by my side, especially during the times when I felt abandoned and lost. I know You held me in those days a little tighter. Thank You for protecting my family and I. I know the devil is always waiting for a moment to distract us from Your mercies and blessings, and I am so thankful that You provide us with blinders when it comes to that. I am thankful that even when we stray Your hand is always there to guide us back to the path You have created for us. Help us to always remember You are there and that we don’t have to carry the weight of our world on our shoulders.
In Your precious name, I pray. Amen.