This past July the six of us traveled to upper Michigan where Troy’s grandma lives. We stayed in her house with his Aunt and Uncle, cousin, and her four-year-old son. Our family set up in the basement so we could spread out and have plenty of room for all of our luggage, pack-n-play, and sleeping bags. It seemed perfect. We had privacy and could be separated from noise and distractions during naptime. The only problem was that Elijah was terrified to be down there alone. Even with all the lamps switched on the basement was dimly lit. Nondescript noises would creak and hum throughout the night and many of the objects stashed away in its corners could easily be construed as something spooky and threatening.
One night Troy and I took advantage of his Aunt and Uncle’s kind offer to watch our kids while we went out for ice cream. They were, for the most part, all asleep so I was hoping that the babysitting experience would be uneventful. When we returned Uncle Larry told us that he was watching television when he heard shouting from downstairs. In the basement he found Elijah upright in bed, absolutely positive that he had seen something monstrous out to get him. Larry helped Elijah regain his composure and eventually he did go back to sleep. A few hours later Troy and I were laying down on a pull out sofa in a small room next to the children.
I was out cold and the only phrase I can think of to describe what happened next is “a violent awakening”. Two feet away from me I heard a loud and bloodcurdling scream. In my state of utter confusion I bolted up and matched that yelp with one of my own. Troy practically flew over the bed while also screaming ready to wrestle the wild creature he assumed had entered the house to attack us. Coming to our senses we found Elijah sprinting for the stairs, eyes wide and pitifully declaring, “I can’t take it anymore!” I had been annoyed that whole week with Elijah’s refusal to settle down for quiet times and his begging to keep the overhead light on at night. No one else had a problem with it and I assumed he was just being difficult to avoid going to bed early. At that ridiculous moment, however, with all three of us panting and trying to assess what in the world just happened, I saw true terror in his little face and I was ashamed of my unfounded accusations.
I myself am “courageously challenged” so it should be of no surprise that I passed this unfortunate trait down to my eldest son. When Elijah asked me why he had to wear mosquito repellent, I explained West Nile virus and he refused to leave the house. When we had a tornado warning last month, Priscilla and Benjamin thought it was great fun to all sit down in the basement together but Elijah could sense the tension and panicked. Fear has weighed me down my entire life. I missed out on many opportunities because the risk was too great and I couldn’t guarantee a favorable outcome. Seeing these same irrational and negative thought patterns sprouting up like weeds in my son makes my heart ache with frustration.
The blissfully ignorant, rose-colored filter that protected Elijah’s mind as a young child has started to wear thin and it pains me to see his eyes begin to narrow and focus in on the dingy reality of what this world has to offer. I am easily paralyzed by the unfathomable evil that seems to run its course without opposition. My response to hatred, sickness, poverty, and death is being closely studied. I have to make a conscious decision about what approach I am going to take because riding the fence between faith and despair does an incredible disservice to my family.
So here is the question I must ask myself: Do I believe in the resurrection of Christ or do I not? If the answer is no than by all means I should head indoors and take cover, encouraging my kids to stay low to the ground. But, if the answer is yes then I must put forth the ascetical effort necessary to develop roots in a source that is good and holy. My prayers, normally obsessed with shielding Elijah from pain, should evolve into intercessions for the purification of his soul by whatever means God deems best. “Perfect love casts out fear” we are told, but the casting out requires so much discipline. I want to release you, Elijah. To let you live a life emboldened by its assurance of eternity. I can start by removing my hands from your eyes and gently using them to lift your face upwards. I have already accepted the obvious reality that I screw up all the time as a mother. If, however, I accomplish nothing else in life but to break the chains of doubt and trepidation entangling our household, I will leave this world contented.