Sunday, August 23, 2009

At Night Most Of All

At night most of all, we need to know that we are not alone.

Tonight my daughter tiptoed downstairs, teddy bear held tightly under her chin, and she silently climbed onto the couch where I was sitting in order to lay her head in my lap and fall asleep. It had been a long day, and I know that she had a case of post-vacation exhaustion. To top it off, a mild scolding from her mother (truly it was mild) led to a cascade of tears over bedtime loneliness, sibling unfairness, and a plague of insecurities.

At night most of all, we need to know that we are not alone.

I used to do the same thing as a child: I would keep myself awake past bedtime with imagined nightmares, listening to the (real) sounds of mice skittering through the walls. When I reached my limit of fear, I would sneak down the stairs, pausing on the last step to stare into the darkness for possible monsters or mice, and then I would run across the kitchen floor, through the dining and living rooms, and into my parents' bedroom for the reassurance that someone was awake (i.e., I woke my mother) and keeping watch over me.

At night most of all, we need to know that we are not alone.

At night most of all, against the nightmares of our minds (real and imagined), we crave the protection of a loving touch. In the loneliness of midnight, we cry for a caring presence. When insecurities loom large and the weight of the world presses in, we seek the reassurance of a watchful mother. At night most of all--whether the day has gone very badly or very well--we need one last reminder of comfort and grace before we can rest.

At night most of all, we need to know that we are not alone.

Sometimes our nights are actually terrors in broad daylight: Poverty that knocks at the door, violence that breathes down the neck, distrust that shadows every move, monsters of war between countries and persons. Some days are endless nights, with no glimmer of dawn in sight. Into one such nightmare, a child was born--late at night in fact--so that we would know we are not alone. It wasn't a birth story meant to be told only at Christmastime: it was a story meant to be told every night at bedtime, in every place where the terrors gather in force, for every hour when the nightmares spill over into the day, through every season of war and lies and power politics, and to every child (of any age) who cannot sleep. It is a story that promises:

At night most of all, you are not alone.

Neither am I.

Thank God.

4 comments:

Laurie McKnight said...

Rachel, Beautiful and sensitive and evocative of past memories and fears we have all had (and still do). Thanks for posting.

Ray Luber said...

Great post and all too true for adults as well as children. The night seems to bring on all kinds of fears and anxieties - some of which hold over to the daytime.

Anonymous said...

I mss those moments when my children would slip their hand in mine while we are walking about. Now it's two generations and the time is slipping by.

Anonymous said...

Appreciated your words. This past week at Chautauqua,Otis Moss preached a very moving sermon on "God is a God of the Night"