Banishing the Boogeyman

August 9th, 2013

Shadows can a be dangerous thing in the mind of a child. When I was a little girl, my room was a pleasant place where I loved to read and play with my dolls—until my mother and I finished our bedtime prayer, and she turned out the light. Then my typical “little girl” room morphed into something sinister and evil. As moonlight played hide and seek behind the clouds, intermittent bits of light slipped in through the window, and common things like dresses and toys became monsters peeking from behind a chair or out of an open closet door. It didn’t take long for me to begin to imagine them crawling up my bedskirt, inching toward my face. 

Needless to say, getting a good night’s rest was difficult—probably as much for my mother as it was for me. Maybe that is why she told our pastor about it one afternoon when he stopped by to visit. His name was Brother Gun, and his response to my mother’s conversation is something I will never forget.

Brother Gun, a father himself, didn’t just shake his head knowingly. He didn’t just sympathize with my mother’s frustration. He didn’t laugh as so many adults might have. I can’t say what he was thinking. I was just a child, and as an adult I never spoke to him regarding the matter. In fact, I cannot even remember all that Brother Gun said. All I can tell you is what I remember. And what I remember is what Brother Gun did and how he made me feel.

He Asked

I wasn’t sitting there listening to the conversation between my mother and the pastor. I’m sure I was off playing somewhere in the house or yard, but after hearing my mother’s complaint, Brother Gun asked to talk to me. When I came, he asked me about my fears.

He Listened

As I sat there, I’m sure that it was hard for me to articulate what exactly made me scared. In the daylight our fears often look less menacing. Even though I was young, I am sure I was reluctant to admit that I was afraid of the dark or the shadows. I know that I couldn’t articulate the terror that my imagination conjured up every night. Still, Brother Gun listened. He listened to whatever it was that I said. He listened to my fears.

He Gave Me Assurance

I don’t remember Brother Gun’s exact words, but I do remember the assurance he gave me. It wasn’t the condescending assurance of a know-it-all adult who said, “There’s no such thing as monsters. Grow up!” And while he may have told me that shadows can’t hurt me, he didn’t do it in a way that said, “You have no reason to be afraid. There’s nothing there.” Instead of trying to talk me out of “believing” in monsters, his assurance was based on God’s Word. Brother Gun assured me that God loved me very much, and he read to me verses from the Bible that told me that God would never leave me. His assurance was based on the fact that God loved me, that God was always with me, and that God would take care of me; therefore, I didn’t have to be afraid.

He Prayed

Finally, Brother Gun prayed with and for me. He asked God to help me not to feel alone, not to be afraid. It was a simple gesture, but it made a profound impact on my life.

I can’t say that I was never afraid of boogeymen again. In fact, as we all know, boogeymen take on a whole new terror as we grow older. Still, Brother Gun’s visit made a lasting impression on me and on my faith. While I couldn’t have expressed it in words at the time, I was in awe of the fact that the pastor of our church—that man who stood and spoke every Sunday in front of the entire congregation—took the time out of his busy schedule to listen and talk to a little girl like me about my fear of shadows.

While there are many ways to help a child handle bedtime boogeymen, I think we can all learn a lesson from Brother Gun. A child’s fears, no matter how irrational in our adult minds, are very real to them. Ask them why they are afraid. Listen to what they tell you. Assure them of your love and of God’s love and protection, and pray with them. It may not make all the boogeymen disappear, but I am certain it will make a difference in their lives.

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