Eternity makes an appearance at bedtime

The header photo is it as far as completely-satisfied Papas go. It tells the story of the night I longed for since he was born over two years ago. And it also tells the story of how we all turn to God.

Mama wanted to retire early that night. He willingly hugged and kissed her goodnight and then watched her shadowy silhouette vanish into our bedroom. Afterward, he let me read him bedtime stories on the guest bed. No mama.

That may seem normal for most families, but finally the natural cradle and curves of mama’s body were no longer required to help him doze off. The milk he should have been weaned from months ago was no longer an addiction. And the sound of mama’s dulcet humming was no longer the requisite lullaby.

Instead, he placed his head on my shoulder and turned the pages of his books until the tales of hungry caterpillars and lost baby birds could no longer prop his eyes open. Eventually, papa’s baritone-monotone-drone lulled him to sleep. I was a bit giddy at that fact. Who knew that leading my son to sleep could make me so elated? Who knew that I, solo, could guide him to sleep after months of bedtime chaos?

It was finally Papa & Son Time. A transition had begun.

And as desperately as I wanted to follow his lead into deep sleep, my attention turned to a small sprinkling of grace that elevated this night’s spiritual importance. Yes, even here at bedtime did I discover grace. Even here among purple sheets and the bedside’s halogen glow. Even here among the sweat and warmth where his head pressed heavy into the hollow of my shoulder.

Tonight, my boy showed me that he was willing to leave routine comfort and instead trust in love: This, his first step in leaving maternal comfort, those first consolations of a restless infancy and toddlerhood. You see, for the first two years of his life, I was an abstraction of love. Compared to mama and her built-in baby-soothing provisions, I was more of a Picasso of security and love—and infants don’t deal in abstractions. They marvel at motherly touch, nourishment, and perception.

And mama’s curves, her act of nursing, her airy lullabies—all these perceptions were readily given up that night and he made room just for me and my assured love for him. Fewer and fewer people are taught about it these days, but that’s what progress in our spiritual lives looks like. My boy made his first spiritual leap that night in that one simple act.

The masters of spiritual life know that spiritual maturation is a turning away from our temporary material comforts so that we might turn increasingly toward love and, eventually, toward the Being Who Is Love. The masters call it the first conversion of the interior life or, more poetically, a dark night of the senses.

It happened in miniature with my boy. It’s the proudest thing I could ask for thus far.

Grace, acting so subtly, so sublimely, so silently—for it is never in the ‘wind, fire, and earthquakes’—that grace is evident in these humble, Lilliputian moments of familial joy. The Lord didn’t let me overlook grace that night, not for my ongoing desperation for catch-up sleep or any other distraction. It was His way of saying, “My fidelity is evident for you at all hours of the night and my grace of conversion is built into you from the start.” Even toddler bedtime is not immune to the quiet marvels of grace.

It was a grace worth staying up for.

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