My last post hinted at the wild conversations that can happen with children when bedtime is filled with songs, stories, and prayers. My own kids shared a bedroom for years because of a tight budget, so our bedtime ritual involved them together. Many of our most important conversations happened during those years.
No topic was forbidden. My children’s defenses would be down, and sometimes they’d blurt out rather extraordinary things.
Claire: Why do angels always carry torches?
Mom: I didn’t know they did. Have you seen an angel?
Claire: Yeah, the other day I ran around the corner of Andrew’s house and there was an angel.
Mom: Oh wow, did you talk?
Claire: Yeah. I told him I was sorry for saying bad words.
As a missionary kid and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship alum, I’m stuck for life with an internal theology monitor. My invisible antennas went up as my daughter spoke. Claire’s angelic encounter seemed to pass scriptural tests: it was unexpected and it prompted repentance. I couldn’t recall any Bible story book illustrations of angels carrying torches (for Brits, flaming torches, not flashlights). But the mental image is beautiful, and completely consonant with biblical imagery.
It was at bedtime that my children told me—together—that they’d decided they wanted to be baptized.
It was at bedtime that they told me they’d conferred with each other and agreed that they hoped a family member traveling abroad would die instead of coming home. I held in my shock and did not reproach them but asked why. Their answer was a revelation to me, helping me understand that the family environment needed to be made safer for them.
Some years later, when my kids had their own rooms, Graham and I had a bedtime conversation and prayer very like that in Isaiah and the Worry Pack. It was a God-encounter for both of us. A week or so later, I asked him how his sleep had been. “OK,” he said. “If I’m having trouble sleeping, I just run a mini-version of ‘The Worry Pack’ like a video in my mind.”
That was when the thought came to me that perhaps someday I should make our experience into a book.
Claire was in junior high when she told me at bedtime that some peers at school made fun of a disabled classmate and she had joined in. Later, on her own initiative, she had apologized tearfully to the girl, and they became friends.
Finally, there were the daytime conversations that emerged from our bedtime sharing. One fall afternoon when Claire was three, we were driving in the neighborhood and I called her attention to a small maple tree whose leaves were afire. “Isn’t it gorgeous?” I rhapsodized.
Claire burst out from the backseat, “I love God!”
Bedtime talks and readings had formed her to see the world theologically, as made and sustained by God.
My children were no more creative than the children in your life are; they had no more capacity for entering God’s presence than your children have. So as you wake up to God’s love and learn new, fruitful ways to pray, share your experiences with them. Of course what you share needs to be at their level, and it needs to connect naturally with their lives and struggles.
There’s no telling what new adventures you’ll have together. And sometimes you’ll find your young ones leading the way.