bad dreams

A few nights ago, I woke in the middle of the night to help my son. Like so many other nights in his little life, he was up in the middle of the night because of a bad dream. When my son was a toddler, I would wake in the middle of the night to loud and distraught crying coming from his room. I would shoot out of bed, go into his room, rub his back, talk to him, sing to him, and cuddle with him until he calmed down and went back to sleep.

Now that my son is a few years older, the bad-dream-recovery-routine has changed. Instead of me going to his room, he comes to mine. Often, he does not even cry. He walks over to my bed, and in a frail voice says, “Mommy, I had a bad dream.” I welcome him next to me and wrap my arms around him. “Do you want to tell me about your dream?” Silence, or a quiet “No.” Then, after just a few moments, “Are you ready to go back to bed?” “Yes.” I walk him back to the door of his room and give him a kiss. I watch him walk into his room and tuck himself back into bed.

When he has a bad dream, my son doesn’t need me to fix it. He doesn’t even look for me to fix it. All he looks for is a moment in my presence.

One reason my son’s bad-dream-recovery-routine has changed is because of he has gained maturity. When he is upset, he is much better at regulating his own emotions. Another reason his bad-dream-recovery-routine has changed is because we have a deeper shared history. When he is in my presence, there are memories brought to him. Without saying a word, my presence reminds him of dangers we have faced before, and the way that I have loved him through it. I don’t promise he won’t have bad dreams again. We both know he will have more nightmares, maybe even in the same night. But once he comes into my room, he knows I am there, and that makes all the difference.

My presence makes my son feel secure, so that he can once again find rest.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

-       Psalm 23:4

This verse is from one of my favorite psalms. Psalm 23 does not say I will not face evil or dark times; it says I will not fear evil or dark times. God’s presence can give me the security to find peace even in the midst of the darkest trials.

To be honest, I am not walking through the dark valley right now. Many other people are. Some may be mourning because of the anniversary of a terrible day in history. Others may be facing anniversaries of more personal tragedies. Still others may be in the midst of something right now that seems impossible to face. I pray that those facing these dark days would feel the presence of God in a deep and tangible way. I pray that the love of our Good Shepherd would comfort and restore their souls.

My life today is a reflection of the green pastures and quiet waters referred to in Psalm 23:2. But my life now is still connected to the life I will have when I come to a dark valley. Because today will become a part of my history with God. Today will be one of the days I remember when I wake up with a bad dream, and seek God’s presence for comfort. In that dark night, I will be reminded of how God cared for me and loved me in during these bright days.

Whether you are in the green pastures or the dark valley, I pray that you will feel God’s presence, and that it will restore your soul.

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