At least twice a week, after I think my children may be asleep, my bedroom door slowly opens with my little man Benji on the other side. He stands there, occasionally disoriented, looking at me calmly with wide, but sleepy eyes. His usual request, "can you come pat my back?", falls softly from his mouth, surprisingly quiet for such a typically boisterous boy. And, on most nights, I agree to check on him "in a few minutes" as long as he goes back to bed and stays in bed.
Tonight was no different. Typing away in the dark, I didn't notice the door swing quietly open at first. Then suddenly, a slight movement caught my eye and there he was...standing in the doorway yet again. Clearly tired, but not fully ready to give up the battle, he quietly said, "Would you come pat my back?" As usual, I responded, "I'll be there in a few minutes..."
Five minutes later, I quietly tiptoed into Ben's room. Not a creature was stirring. Ben was already fast asleep, looking content and peaceful. Despite his slumbered state, I leaned in, patted his chest gently and kissed his forehead. It is not entirely unusual...this falling asleep after requesting that I come in to pat his back or check on him. I think, in the anticipation of my coming...in knowing I am near...there is a peace that falls over his little heart and mind, allowing the elusive sleep to settle in and make itself at home. In this moment, I am reminded that this little sweetheart, the one who probably stretches me most, seems to constantly ride the line between desired independence and desperate need for reassurance.
And yet, isn't that true of so many of us? We desperately want independence - the ability to stand on our own two feet - and yet we long for some reassurance that we are not in "this" - whatever the "this" may be - alone.
I know it is true for me. I waffle, at times, between a sense of confident strength and the need for someone to stand with me...or, even, to carry me in a moment of weakness or frailty. While I much prefer my "I am woman here me roar" strength, there are moments when my strength comes, in part, from what someone else is able to share with me. At times, I just need to snuggle up into the arms of my Ken to regain the sense of calm that was somehow elusive only moments earlier. Other times, I need my sister or a friend to share my heart with. Even if they don't have the "fix", their presence in my life is a reminder that I am not walking alone. Oddly enough, in this age of social networking, sometimes even a reassuring word or encouraging note from a far away friend can lighten the load that life can sometimes bear. And, most often, when I take it, my time alone with God can renew my sense of purpose and of worth.
I love that my little boy loves me. I love that a word from me, as simple as, "I'll be there in a few minutes..." can bring him peace enough to sleep. I love that he feels that way because of the relationship we have. I love that it reminds me of the relationships I have with those who are my cheerleaders and champions...those in whom I know I can call on in a time of need. And, I love that it reminds me of my eternal relationship that I have with the One who made me. It reminds me that in my weakness, He is strong. It reminds me that in my weakness, He gives me others to stand along side me...to stand in the gap or hold up my arms when I no longer can. It reminds me that He will never leave nor forsake me...not when I am trying desperately to be independent (and, perhaps the one inadvertently doing the leaving or forsaking)....nor when I am in desperate need for His tangible presence to sustain me.
And with that, I, too, am going to go to bed. As I go, I am calmly confident and reassured. And, I trust that sleep will not be elusive tonight.