I had just put my daughter to bed, filled up my big water glass (so healthy!), grabbed a handful of Dove dark chocolates (not so healthy…), and curled up on the couch. I had the remote handy while I clicked around online. Just a few minutes into my evening’s wind-down routine, the lights flickered once, twice, and then poof!
The house was dark. REAL DARK.
Before I could even move, my kiddo began screaming as loud as she could in a terror-filled voice I’d never heard before. She didn’t quiet down to take a breath or hear me shouting, “I’m coming! Hold on! Just a second! I’m on my way!”
Her bedroom shares a wall with the living room, so it’s not like I had far to go. And thanks to the light of my computer screen, I could see for several feet down the hallway. I pulled open her door and said firmly, “Annalyn! Stop it. I’m RIGHT HERE.”
I shuffled over to her bed with memories of her messy floor and my decision to wait for morning to clean it up. Then, hand in hand, we walked to the living room and proceeded to have what I called “a little adventure.”
She was clearly terrified by her unexpected plunge into darkness, and I understood. So I did my best to stay upbeat and reframe the unusual evening as a fun adventure for the two of us. We lit candles, went on a hunt for flashlights (WHY do we have four flashlights and ONLY ONE that works?!?), and eventually hopped in the car for a drive when I realized my phone would die soon.
While my phone charged in the car, we ate pie at Perkin’s and arrived home to every light in the house burning brightly. (The aforementioned candles were not burning brightly, however. Just in case you were concerned.) I tucked her back in bed and tucked the whole experience away in my mind.
Until the night several days later when she refused to go to bed because she was afraid the power would go out again.
“What if it does, though? What if the lights go out in all the rooms and it’s dark again and I can’t see anything and what if?”
Reminding her that out of the approximately one thousand nights she’s slept in our house, the electricity has only gone out once didn’t help. Neither did reminding her that I came to her room immediately and we actually had a fun little night when the power went out.
In case you were thinking of nominating me for Mom of the Year today, I should probably tell you that yelling at her to quit being a baby didn’t work either.
Because my sweet girl is also a smart girl and has proven quite capable in the manipulation department, I just wasn’t sure if she was truly scared or if she was using it as an excuse to stay up late. Once she asked me the following question, though, I knew something real was going on in her little head. She said, “But how do I stop my head from thinking about it, Mommy?”
Oh, baby girl, if only I knew.
Obviously I know – IN THEORY – how to stop fear in its tracks. I know about thinking happy thoughts and praying for courage and protection and singing Sunday school songs or Justin Bieber songs (you know, whatever does the trick). I know about reason and logic and thinking about it, really thinking about it.
But even though I shared with my little girl all the tricks I’ve used since I was her age and suffered from recurring nightmares, I knew that, in the end, the choice was hers. She had to choose whether or not to be scared.
Fear is a choice. And so is faith.
When the lights flicker or the thunder booms – -either literally or metaphorically – -we have a choice. Do we choose to lean in to the fear that comes so naturally, so suddenly, so strongly? Or do we turn back to our faith, our trust in a God who is good, a God who will work things out, a God who isn’t finished yet, a God who can overcome and will be with us in our brokenness and will wipe away every tear?
Once again, God used one of my kids to teach me a lesson, to remind of the Truth, to guide me back to faith and away from my own fears. A dark house doesn’t usually terrify me, but plenty of other things do. But the next time I’m gripped by fear and tempted to give in, I’m going to remember what I told my little girl at bedtime.
I’m going to remember what God has done for me in the past, how He has loved me and protected me and walked beside me and carried me. I’m going to choose faith.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.
Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
I don’t know what you’re facing today, but I pray you can lean on your faith and choose God over whatever’s got you scared. Nothing can defeat our God who cares deeply about you. He will never leave you alone; He will be with you wherever you go (no matter how dark it gets).