“Which one are you going to choose? Let me guess your favourite” I said. T had chosen her children’s Bible as her bedtime book that night (very pleased Mummy, we don't 'make her' read the Bible as it was just a battle ground. We just make sure there are plenty of Bible stories, and kids Bibles on her shelves and rejoice whenever she picks them out. PDA means that any demands cause intense anxiety and avoidance, and expectations may as well be demands.)
“Let me read it to you” T said, taking the little Bible out of my hands half way through the story she had picked. She closed the pages up for a moment as I settled back into the pillow ready to listen. “What will Jesus say next I wonder?” T said, with an encouraging smile to me as she carefully and slowly began to open the book up again.
She read, hesitating sometimes for whispered help with difficult words, sometimes going back to the start of a sentence again to read it differently now she knew how it ended. She turned the page. “It’s like this Mummy,” she said, “I am lying very still like this, and then…”
“Then what T?” I asked. Then I waited.
“Then Jesus comes over,” T said, “and said ‘wake up time! Time for breakfast! Don’t stay asleep any longer!’ Then I get up (she stretches and yawns, hugs me and cheers for Jesus) and I’m hungry.” She said.
We were reading the story of Jairus’ daughter, one of her most favourite stories because Jesus calls the girl ‘little one’—which is what T’s name means.
We went on reading, next I read the words and paused as she became the characters and explored the story from the inside out giving them their words and feelings, and letting them hear what Jesus was saying to them.
At the end of our stories I stopped and asked if we could pray. “Not me!” said T.
T really finds bedtime praying difficult. There’s something about it that she finds awkward, confusing. Something that makes her want to shut down when I ask each night.
“But T,” I said “if you were one of the people in the stories meeting Jesus wouldn’t you really want to talk to him, to ask him your questions and hear what he said to you?”
“I would ask him so many questions Mummy, like ‘who made Father God?’ and I would tell him to tell you all to play with me….”
We chatted for a while, and I smiled as she drifted to sleep. She may not like the idea of ‘bedtime prayers’, she may find the pressure of the expectations to ‘pray’ really difficult but she has no problem wanting to talk to Jesus! And in the storytelling, and the listening to God’s word she had been doing just that. She had voiced her questions and worries about playing while we had read the story of Martha and Mary, and she had heard Jesus reassure her that he wanted nothing more than to spend time just being with her. She had rejoiced and cheered for Jesus as she dwelled in the story of Jairus and his little girl. She had heard his gentle powerful voice inviting her to get up and live in his strength. And she had been sitting at the foot of the cross as we read the Easter story, sad that Jesus shouldn’t have had to be there, wanting to fight Jesus’ enemies just like Peter. And she had been as amazed and overjoyed as Mary standing by the empty tomb as she heard the gardener turn and say her name.
I am reminded so often in my parenting that faith is not a formula, more a friendship. My T will get to know Jesus and will chat with him in the way that comes most naturally to her. And in his faithfulness, just as he does with me and you, he will meet her there and speak life into her heart. It is not my place to force her into a ‘faith mould’, or to expect her to fit into a ‘one size fits all faith’ but simply to be alongside and hold those sacred moments, those pauses and glimpses open with her and for her and let her meet with Jesus. Then all that’s left to do is watch with amazement, and learn over and over just how deeply He loves us and how tenderly, how personally He calls his children to himself.