Maybe that’s the current status quo because Reese as a walking, talking, arguing school-age kid is more tiring for me than she used to be (for reasons I find both fun and frustrating). So, maybe I’ve punted bedtime to my wife out of a sense of self-preservation. Or maybe it’s because I’ve just gotten lazier.
But, whatever the cause, I’ve found myself looking back wistfully to how Mindy and I used to put Reese to bed together. (I won’t say “put Reese down” because that sounds like what you do for a beloved but irretrievably ill pet).
Anyway, Mindy and I have both been Christian pastors since before we were married, but we’ve regularly had trouble finding a regular time each day to pray together as a married couple. That was until Reese came along.
At Reese’s bedtime we’d do essentially the same thing every night, a holy habit, if you will. We would take Reese into her room and all three of us would sit on the floor.
We would read a story from a children’s Bible we like a great deal. It has a pretty good selection of Old and New Testament stories that are told quickly. It’s all in verse, so it’s kind of fun to read aloud.
After the story, we’d read a prayer from A Little Child’s First Prayers, which I found on the clearance rack at Borders. Here’s an example from the prayerbook: Dear Lord, thank you for the rivers and streams, lakes, and ponds. They give us lovely places to visit and water to drink. There are many places in the world where people do not have enough water to drink or to grow their food. Please help us to help them.
Next we would say the Lord’s Prayer and have a few moments of freelance prayer. We’d thank God for the day. We would pray for family members, friends, church members. We’d give thanks for the food we’d eaten that day. We’d pray about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We’d give thanks for the cat. Basically, we’d pray about whatever our spirits offered up in the present moment.
(Side note: Reese, at that much younger age, would regularly pray for someone named “Eeiighaaaboo”. We never could figure out who that was.)
Finally we’d sing Reese her night-night song and say goodnight. Here are the lyrics: Good night, (insert your child’s name here). Lay down and take you rest. We’re gonna lay your head upon the Savior’s breast. We love you, but Jesus loves you best. So we bid you good night, good night, gooood niiiight.
I was amazed then and even more amazed now by how much it meant to me to have that regular, habitual time with Mindy and Reese and the Lord. Times change, patterns shift, but that need is still there. As it should be.
But, how to fill it now that things have changed?
Maybe I just need to get my backside off the couch and get back into the night-night family prayer habit. Or, perhaps by now bedtime has become sacred Mother/Daughter time and so a new holy habit needs to emerge?
If Jesus, prayer, and connecting with my family in Christ are all important (and they are), then a new practice to demonstrate that must come into being. If it doesn’t, are those things truly important to me? Think about it: if I say eating is really important for my life, but I never make time and space to eat, am I telling the truth? More than that, will I survive?
How are these kinds of things – prayer habits, connecting with family or friends around Jesus, etc. – working for you? Let me know. I can, after all, set you up with a really sweet, little children’s Bible.