This may sound surprising to you, but even pastors find themselves in situations where they’re at a loss for words. In fact, I find myself in these kinds of situations more than most people realize, but that will be for an entirely different blog someday. I want to share one reoccurring moment of speechlessness that I experienced: bedtime.
Not my bedtime, but my kids’ bedtime. I vividly recall when my firstborn son was finally old enough to have conversations with me before he drifted off to sleep. We’d talk about what he was going to play with tomorrow, he’d throw in random questions about anything and everything to prevent the inevitable moment of me leaving the room, and all in all it was mainly pointless small talk. And then it hit me – what was the last thing I wanted to talk about with Kaden before he drifted off to sleep? Deep down I knew it shouldn’t be about dessert, his favorite train that day, or why the sky is blue. Yet, he was only two, so I couldn’t expect to talk to him about the impact of the cross, or the process of maturing in the faith, or how God is sovereign when there is so much evil in the world. I didn’t have an answer – I was at a loss of words and it was making me anxious night to night.
Then, God provided an answer for me in the unlikeliest of places: Twitter. Unfortunately, I can’t even remember who posted it, otherwise I would give them credit, but it was a parent sharing their bedtime gospel blessing for “anyone” out there who could benefit from it. That anyone was me, and I couldn’t screenshot it fast enough:
This was it. Unconditional love, which is partially mirrored in a parent’s love for a child, is perfectly captured in God’s love for us. I wanted Kaden to think about unconditional love, and for him to know that he is fully loved in that way by God, regardless of his performance in life. This was both simpler and more powerful than I expected.
Comfort from Love
As we continue to preach through Paul’s letter to the Philippians here at Grace, this phrase jumped out at me in this past weekend’s passage in Philippians 2:1, “if there is any comfort from love…”
In context, Paul is encouraging the church to remember the blessings they have in Christ, which will provide the necessary motivation to pursue unity and humility with one another in the church.
By remembering what God has done for us in Christ in the past, we are better able to live faithfully in the present and prepare for what the Lord has for us in the future. Our memory is oftentimes the primary weapon we have to fight the powers of darkness we face in this world. In all things, remember what God has done, and in this case, remember the comfort that the unconditional of God love provides.
It was in the moment of studying and dwelling on this phrase in Philippians 2:1 that I thought about the bedtime blessing I try to end my kids’ day with as often as I am able. I want Kaden, who is now 5, and his sister Brinley, who turns 3 in a few weeks, to remember how much God loves them so that they can be comforted in their final waking moments before going to sleep.
I believe the Bible also knows that the moment of lying in bed at night, before sleep overtakes us, is a precious time to protect. Ephesians 4:26 says “do not let the sun go down on your anger”, and even if Paul is just speaking in general about not allowing anger to linger in our minds and hearts, he at the very least uses end of the day imagery to get his point across. Elsewhere he writes to “set your minds on things that are above, not on things of this earth” (Colossians 3:2) and “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8).
In this way I find this bedtime blessing is great for children, and in fact it’s great for all of God’s children. Meaning it’s good for me. It’s good for you. It’s good for all who, through Christ, is a child of God.
It is an innate desire within all human beings to be fully known and fully loved. The problem is we think that if we are fully known, we won’t be fully loved, or in order to be fully loved, we must resist against allowing ourselves to be fully known. But the gospel tells us that God is the only one who is capable of fully knowing us, and at the same time, fully loving us. He showed us this by sending his one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins and restore us back to himself for all eternity.
And through Christ, he loves us because he loves us. In Christ, there is nothing we can do to make him love us more, and there is nothing we can do that will make Him love us less. We are unconditionally loved, and we are invited to think on that, and ultimately, rest in that. What would your life look like if you took the time to dwell upon this truth every night before you went to bed, regardless of what that day consisted of?
I believe it would, among other things, provide you “comfort from love”.
I’m no longer speechless when it comes to what to say to my kids at bedtime. Some nights it goes better than others, and in all transparency, often times my true “final words” are less than gospel-centered due to the fact that Kaden and Brin will sometimes call Rochelle and I in about five more times for another drink of water or because it’s too dark, or too light, or too-something, so my final phrase is a threat to take away tomorrow’s dessert (this is true). But alas, my desire is for them to know at the end of the day that their mother and I love them unconditionally, and that is a mere reflection of God’s unconditional love for them, who is able to love them more completely and abundantly more than I ever could.
Child of God, rest in that love tonight, and every night, for remembering the past will equip you to wake up tomorrow and face whatever life has in store.