What do the monsters under the bed do during the day? Do they spend time plotting new ways to season and cook little boys? Do they update the scoreboard that tallies the screams of the world’s children? Or do they browse the scareology section of the local bookstore for the latest bestsellers?
Their daytime agenda may be a mystery, but their modus operandi after dark is not. Under the bright rays of daylight, that space under your bed is empty, save a few missing game pieces and a discarded sock. But as soon as the bedroom light goes out, the shadows slowly crawl up the wall and you hear the sound of breathing coming from several slovenly beasts waiting for an opportunity. If your foot accidentally drifts over the side of the bed, you certainly won’t live to regret it.
Thank God for the night light – that dependable guardian of safety- faithfully providing just enough illumination to keep the monsters at bay. Because we all know they just HATE the light.
Being an anxious young lad, I had even more on my mind than those monsters. My dad would come in after I had nestled into bed, with the customary glass of cold water. After taking a swig, I confided — night as if it were the first time — I was afraid of the Thunder and the Lightning and the Fire Trucks. The original Axis of Evil.
And, every night – if it were the first time — my father would calmly say, “That’s okay, Jason, they’re all in bed now.” That was enough for me. I was certain that the Thunder and the Lightning and the Fire Trucks were indeed in bed. With that confident assurance — and the steady glow of the night light — was able to drift off into dreamland.
That‚Äôs how it works with kids. The word of Mom and Dad is golden, more reliable than a hot summer in San Antonio. If Dad informs you that babies come from storks, who can argue? When you skin your knee on the sidewalk, and Mom kisses your boo-boo, is it not instantly healed? Kids have an inherent ability to have faith in something bigger than themselves. They trust that their parents know everything and are as heroic as Superman or Wonder Woman.
As we grow up, we see that our parents may not be as all-knowing as we once believed. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t still something much bigger than us, looking out for us, and loving us without condition. That fact gets lost in the details of living, as we take the weight of the world on our own shoulders. We worry about our strained marriage, our job security (or lack thereof) or paying the mortgage. We lie awake at night wondering if we’re good parents. We fret about big life changes, which become increasingly indistinguishable from the host of little ones.
In our monster-under-the-bed scenario, the night light is a symbol of faith. When our bedroom is flooded with sunlight, there are no monsters to be found. That’s how it is in life. With a strong faith to light the way, our fears and worries melt away. But as night falls, or our faith wavers, we are more easily frightened by the distorted shadows of our imaginations.
Life is a thrilling adventure, with more uncertain turns than any roller coaster. By observing the easy faith of children, perhaps we can see that faith can offer us a release from the gnawing worries that press down on us daily. Will we make rent this month? Am I doomed to be among the next round of layoffs? How will we ever afford college? Do I have what it takes to be a good dad?
Questions like these loom large in our lives — even larger than the bloodthirsty creatures that lurked in the shadows of our childhood bedrooms. May we be ever mindful that there IS someone bigger than the questions, bigger than the monsters that keep us up at night. May we remember that we have a hand to hold through all the scariness that life dishes out. And, in the darkest of nights, may we always count on that simple childlike faith to light our paths, keeping the monsters at bay better than any night light ever could.
And the monsters will be forced to go wherever it is that monsters go.
Copyright 2010 Jason Kotecki