An important part of my nighttime routine is making a final pass through the house. I make sure the doors are locked and the outside light is on. Make sure the morning coffee is ready—it’s the smell of coffee and not the sound of the alarm that gets me out of bed—and the lights above the sink are shining—just in case someone wakes in the middle of the night thirsty. I’ll check to make sure my son is adequately covered and hasn’t flopped and flipped his blankets off. My final stop is to check my daughter’s sugar, because she may sleep and we all may sleep, but diabetes never does.
I always pray over my children then. Every night, without fail. They don’t know this; I’ve never told them. I suppose doing so is as much for my benefit as theirs. I have an uneasy relationship with the night. It’s the time of day when I often get most of my work done, and yet I spend much of that time peering into the shadows for what isn’t there.
My prayers are the usual ones—help us to sleep well, bless our family, let Your angels stand guard. And keep us safe, always that. Always a lot of that.
I heard a preacher the other day talk about praying for safety. He said Christians shouldn’t place so much of a premium on that, that this is pretty much one of the safest countries in the world and so we’re pretty much wasting our words, that we should instead pray for boldness because that’s what we need more. He said we’re often content to remain where we are because that’s where everything is safe and familiar, when God wants us to go forth and conquer new lands within and without.
I’ll admit he stepped on my toes a little with that. It’s probably true that I need more boldness than safety, just as true about those new lands. And I’ll say that fear plays an important part in my life and maybe too much, what with all those shadows and whatnot.
So maybe instead of praying that God will keep us safe, I should pray that He will keep us on our toes. And rather than asking that His angels stand guard over us, I should pray that they will charge ahead of us into new places and new ways of seeing things. Maybe I’ve been tricked into thinking that my life is better thought of as something to be endured rather than made better, as if my purpose in being here is to comfort myself before I comfort others.
But maybe praying for safety is important, too. It reminds me that despite what everyone in my family may believe, I’m small. Just a tiny speck in a big world, one that oftentimes is much more scary than it is beautiful. And one who often needs a great deal of help.
Perhaps if I had the faith of the preacher I heard the other day, I wouldn’t need to ask for so much safety. Perhaps if I had his view of the world, I would see no reason to fear anything. I would see the battle as already won and the last sentence already written, one with an exclamation point rather than a period.
I hope to have that sort of faith one day. For now, I don’t. For now, I look at this world and see more shadows than light and more of what could go wrong than what has already gone right.