I hear it. The thumping of little feet up the stairs in the wee hours of the morning. In the soft light filtering through our window, I see her, red curls, tousled. More often than not, her thumb is still in her mouth, and she is by my side, patting my arm. “I was scared of nothing,” she says. (That’s her way of saying she woke up afraid, but she didn’t know why.) She just. felt. scared.
I pull her into our bed and she snuggles and falls back to sleep, sighing. Some nights we take her back to her room, others she stays safely in between us. More often than not she will wake again and she will cry out. A nightmare. She has them almost every night.
Last night while my B was away, she came up earlier than normal and crawled into bed with me. She fell asleep, and I stayed awake in my vigil over her while I was waiting for Bri who was just leaving work to drive home two hours in those wee hours of the morning. The whimpers overtook her sleeping mind, and she awoke, reaching for me, screaming hysterically. “Mommy! Mommy!”
“I’m here,” she was in my arms immediately.
“There’s a shark in the bed!” she continued to scream, kicking the covers frantically.
“No, no, honey,” I soothed. “There is no shark.”
She looked at me, her eyes clearing, and desperation crossed her features. “But I SAW it. He was in my bed and coming to eat me.”
She doesn’t understand what a dream is. Her nightmares are reality to her. I pulled her closer in my arms and rocked her, smoothing back those unruly curls, explaining that it was all okay, that there really was no shark. Within moments she was asleep again. Safe. Content.
Every night it’s something different, but it’s the same. Spiders crawling all over her bed. Snakes in the bed. A mean rabbit. Her imagination is fierce… in a good way and a bad way. She finds out the bad way every night. I marvel at her mind. What must go through it?
I thought about her fears as I watched her sleep soundly in my arms. And I thought about my fears. There are so many…
Fear of failure as a mom, wife, daughter, friend.
Fear of my thyroid cancer treatment not working and more surgery.
Fear of breast cancer recurrence.
Fear of losing Brian or one of my children.
Fear of losing a parent or an in-law or a grandparent.
Fear of not being understood.
Fear of expectations. My own and others’.
Fear of the future.
Fear of not being loved.
Fear of rejection because I am needy and unable to reach out to others like I long to.
Fear that all this time all that I believe isn’t real.
I could go on. The list is huge. The fears are real.
My Audrey? Her fears are real, too, even if the things that scare her aren’t. And often her fears translate into daily living. She’s terrified of an ant crawling across the sidewalk. She loves animals, but if they move near her, she will scream and cling. I often sigh and want to convince her there’s nothing to be afraid of, but I refuse to tell her not to be afraid. What I tell her is what to do with those fears. I open my arms to her.
And she comes. She finds comfort. She prays with me. And she is safe. Content. At least for the moment. But it will happen again, and each time my arms will open.
And my fears? Some of them may seem irrational to others, too. But they are real. They are huge. They leave me some days sobbing hysterically at the feet of Jesus. He doesn’t just sigh and tell me not to be afraid. He opens His arms.
And I come. I find comfort. I pray.
And I am safe.
At least for today.
It will happen again. And each time…
His arms will open.