Much like beauty, I suppose danger is in the eye of the beholder. Something one sees as fun and invigorating, another may deem terrifying. Take sky diving or rock climbing… parasailing or bungee jumping. Some find excitement and thrill in such activities; others down-right fear even of the thought. And for my worrier of a son, his creative mind can make a seemingly far-fetched concept a concern for days.
Eli dwells on the dangerous, not because he yearns for it, but because he shrills at the thought of it becoming a reality. I think it’s his mind analyzing every element of a potential dangerous situation to figure out how best to dodge the opportunity for it to occur. But I’ve become the expert in talking him through these scenarios that will likely never happen, but still weigh heavy on his heart.
“Momma, will a tornado get us?”
“No, buddy. And if one were to find us, we have a basement that we can go to. Tornados hate basements!”
I thought that would suffice but weeks later we still spoke about how tornadoes don’t have eyes or ears and can’t single us out to personally attack. Thank heavens he discovered the Wizard of Oz because my final push to diminish his worry was by telling him that tornadoes only show up in Kansas where Dorothy is from; they don’t like the Kentucky soil. One-hundred percent accurate, no. But it appeased him as long as I promised that we wouldn’t move to Kansas one day.
“Momma, that lightning in the distance is coming fast.”
“It’s not as fast as us, sweet boy. We will be inside by the time it reaches here if it does.”
We were on vacation, where rain storms come and go as fast as the wind. So, a little lightning in the distance didn’t bother us any, knowing it would dissipate before reaching us. But to Eli, he was enthralled by it, nearly crippling his ability to enjoy splashing in the pool. Okay, okay… maybe we should have gotten out of the pool earlier at the first sight of lightning in the far distance, but when Eli brought it to our attention, we did pack up and head back to the room.
“Momma, why do bad things happen?”
Why is it that I always get the difficult questions? Maybe it’s a curse my parents put on me because rumor had it I asked the difficult questions to them when I was his age. I have learned as a parent that you can’t prepare your answers for questions like these early like I do at work, drafting talking points so we are prepared for difficult conversations that may arise. Instead, you must be quick on your feet and go with the first thing that pops in your head because if not, they will question the authenticity of your answer.
“Sometimes, bad things happen because people make bad choices and other times it’s out of our control.” Okay, my answer was going over his head so I needed to make it tangible. “Eli, bad things in the world occur because sometimes people are tempted by the devil to do bad.” The moment that it came out of my mouth was the moment I wanted to push it back in. All my little worrier needed was something else to latch on to for his worry to deepen. Now, “the devil” became his infatuation.
“Momma, who is the devil? Will he try to tempt me? Why does he do bad things? Where does he live? In fire, oh no, I don’t want to live in fire. How can I keep the devil away?”
I remember glancing at my husband with that sorry look in my eye, knowing that the first thing that popped in my head on this topic wasn’t one that I should have jumped on. Too deep for a kiddo too young. I believe that at his age, naivety is still important, and I didn’t want to be the one to take away the childhood bliss of not worrying about heavy topics. Yet, I had opened Pandora’s Box.
The only way to help a worrier is to help them work through the worry. I know, because I too am one. So, Eli and I talked. We spoke about the devil, about Satan. I shared how he was once an angel of God but made some bad decisions to not follow him and now lives in the depths of the earth. I tried to talk about the good. About how God loves everyone. About how we make mistakes but that doesn’t make us bad. All we need to do is remember that we love God and God loves us. And because of that, we are good in His eyes. And yet, Eli still lived in fear that the devil would cozy up to him without him knowing it.
“Eli, do you know a sure way to keep the devil away?”
“No, how?!?!” That was exactly what he needed to know!
“You pray. Because when you pray, you are telling the devil you aren’t worth his time. You love God and God will protect you. The devil…he is lazy. He doesn’t want to go after someone with as strong of a faith as you!”
That was the trick on so many accounts. At anytime and anywhere, if he feared the devil, he would pray. When I asked who was going to say grace at meals, Eli’s hand would be the first up! He was happy to say prayers then and at night. And to him the more prayers, the farther the devil stayed.
“Momma, what does the devil look like?”
Not knowing how best to describe him without terrifying him more, I said this. “You know… the best place to learn is in this one book.”
I have read from this book alone quite a lot, but I realized at this point that reading it with my family I had never done. We go to church. Eli goes to a Catholic school. And yet, I got the book, placed it on my knees and asked if he knew what this book was, having every intention that he wouldn’t be able to answer it. “The Bible,” he told me, proudly actually!
This book has no pictures. It has fine print and written in a verse that even the most knowledgeable Christian has trouble understanding. And yet that night, Eli and I sat close on the couch and read a story in Genesis and one in Matthew – both talking about how the devil tries to tempt us and how Jesus and Adam and Eve reacted to it.
That night we learned together. We talked about our faith in deeper ways than I had expected. We shared a love for God and a hate for sin. I felt a peace in knowing that I had found the one place that can ease all worries. I had searched high and low for the perfect words to share or situation to describe to calm my son’s worry. And yet, I realized that I needed to look no further.
One book. One humble book is filled with everything we need to know to get through our lives as a whole and through the single days we struggle through. This one book has everything we need to live fully, love deeply, and worry less. A lot less. I realized that night that this parenting thing doesn’t come with instructions, but everything I need isn’t so far out of reach.
Don’t feel helpless in your worry. Don’t let that stifle your life or your ability to live fully and presently. Don’t get boggled down in the ruin that you see around you or that you fear is coming. Don’t get discouraged or give up. Not now. Not tomorrow. Not anytime. For when you have no where else to turn, I beg that you open this one book. You peer into its thin pages. You may see tiny print, but the messages are bigger than anything this earth can give us. Know that you don’t need to know it all, you just need to know where to find it. And it’s all right here.
“I want to read this whole book, Momma. Can we?”
“Of course, sweet Eli. It may take us our whole lives, but we can read it together.”