I have been blessed with a daughter who has a vivid imagination. We keep a bathroom light on all night, and we have night lights in every room of the lights (I have a husband who thinks lights are cool). Still, on occasion she wakes us up because she has had a nightmare.
Last night she came in, heart beating fast and voice all shaky, because she had a bad dream. It was too terrible to talk about, she said, but it did have an earthquake in it. I let her lie beside me for a few minutes, and then I started to help her put the dream behind her so she could go back to sleep.
I didn’t tell her anything new, but I did categorize it differently. I explained that God made us in such a way that when we fill our minds with good thoughts, the bad thoughts go away. She asked how, and I told her she could think of three things:
- She could imagine something pleasant. Since Bethel likes horses, I asked her what she would name a horse if she had one. I gave her a few things to think about along those lines.
- She could also think about how God has blessed her in the past. I asked her what happy things have happened to her lately. We went on a happy rain walk yesterday, and Bethel merrily splashed in every puddle along the way. I helped her remember how much fun she had. Remembering what God has done for us is another good thing we can think about.
- She could also think about God. I told her that remembering how God takes care of his people can help us trust him too. I reminded her that God gave the children of Israel manna. She added that God gave them meat as well. I asked her how God led them, and she remembered the pillar of fire and the cloud.
Then she went back to sleep (after asking if she could sleep on the couch and get the ladybug flashlight– I said no and yes).
I do know that, in addition to these things, a knowledge of the things that frighten children can also diffuse their fears. A science book on thunder and lightning has been helpful, as was the knowledge that hurricanes travel relatively slowly. That’s something we can talk about in the daytime. I want to help them understand that knowledge often helps us not to be afraid. They have friends who are afraid of bats and bugs more because they don’t know anything about them than because bats and bugs are inherently creepy. At the same time, since we can never eliminate 100% danger, we have to accept that life is full of risks and live our lives in spite of those risks.
Those three categories are pretty nifty. If she can learn that she is not at the mercy of her thoughts, she’ll be ahead of most grownup women who struggle with fear, anger, and depression. It’s a good reminder for me, how important it is to discipline my mind to think on good things.
I think today we’re going to talk about “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee.”