Nothing will warm your heart like opening your eyes in the middle of the night to find a smiling four-year-old standing next to your bed. Unless, of course, you live alone. In that case you should probably move or ask the doctor to lower your dosage.
Fortunately, a four-year-old lives in my house. So when I wake up at 3 a.m. with him standing next to my bed it’s no big deal.
His room is on the other side of our house. That means that when he wakes up in the middle of the night he has to walk all the way across a dark, quiet house just to speak one short sentence.
“Dad, I’m scared.”
Usually, after being woken up like this, I am too. So I sit on the side of the bed, let my heart rate settle down, put the gun back in the drawer and walk my four-year-old back to his room where I pray over him and tell him goodnight. On the way back I step on every Lego he somehow missed during his journey through darkness.
But here’s the weird thing.
At 5:00 in the afternoon, when the house is completely lit and everyone is awake and active, I’ll sometimes ask my four-year-old to do a job. Put a ball back into his closet. Put a towel back in a cabinet. Turn the bathroom light off.
He never wants to do it.
Not because he’s lazy or rebellious.
This baffles me. How can the kid who has no problem walking in the middle of the night through a dark room littered with Lego land mines suddenly be too scared to go into his own room by himself in the full light of day?
And then I remember.
It’s what’s on the other end.
At 3 in the morning, my kid can walk through a dark, quiet house all alone because he knows that there is someone waiting for him on the other end of his journey. Someone who will listen. Someone who cares.
But in the afternoon, when he has to walk into his closet, he knows that there is no one there waiting for him. At least he hopes that there is no one there waiting for him. On the other end of this mission, it’s just him. Alone. Scared.
Presence makes all of the difference.
I can’t always be there for him. It would hurt him if I was. But I can do something better.
So I teach him about the One who waits for him on the other end of his journey.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” John 14:1-3 (ESV)
And I teach him the difference between his earthly father and his heavenly One. Like I said, I can’t be with him all the time. But his heavenly Father is.
And presence makes all of the difference.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 (ESV)