This weekend I spent two nights sleeping in my childhood bedroom. The one I slept in from the time I was eight years old until the night before I got married. It looks different now. The walls are different, and the floors, and the furniture. But it’s definitely still my room. The windows and doors are right where they should be. The intercom where I would listen to stories at night that were playing down the hall in all of our bedrooms. The adjoining door through the bathroom to the room that was once my playroom, then my little brother’s room, then my sister’s room.
And of course my memory drifted back to all the things I wondered there as a younger me. The silly but important emotions that were felt, the precious friends that had slumber parties with me, the brothers that sat on the end of my bed to talk, the books that filled so many of my waking hours and became my friends, the hopes and dreams that are now realities.
But even more than my past, my thoughts kept returning to my children’s present. My oldest is almost exactly the age I was when I moved into that room. He is now creating the memories in his life that I was recalling in my own. I watched my kids run across the pasture to my grandparents’ house as my granddad walked up to meet them, and it was hard to fight the choking nostalgia. Precious hours spent outside on those acres where you could walk and walk and talk to no one but your grandmother or a horse or cow. I thought about what I most wanted for my kids that I had or didn’t have. It didn’t take long to know what it was. When I lie in that room I recall all the tumultuous emotions, the childish anxieties, or the dramatized “depths of despair” that my often over-emotional little self could conjure up, but mostly I remember being safe in that room. Not even really physically safe, but spiritually and emotionally safe. The things that surrounded me there were pure, and lovely, and healthy for my spirit, soul, and body. Not perfect or pain-free but anchored in the midst of whatever happened. I was allowed to be a little girl there for a very long time. To think like a little girl because the adults in my life were being the adults and putting all the safe boundaries and comforting protective measures necessary in place to give me those years. And God was very gracious. There are times we will just never understand the “whys” of things…well, I will never know why I was the little girl chosen to be in that room, but I will always be grateful and do everything I can to live my life for the One Who gave me that gift.
I was taught to turn to God first there. That was the home of my early habits of daily Bible reading, prayer, and memorization. When I was lonely, He became my first Friend, my first choice for a companion, then family, then friends. Where I was given carefully chosen reading, music, and my limited TV and movie watching were done, not there, but in the middle of the house with my whole family watching. I’m not young enough to have had a computer in my room. We had one in the middle of the house that everyone used together. We had dial up until I got married. I had a cell phone in the years before I left home, but had limited time on it and most of my calls had to come to the house where you knew my mom or dad could very well answer the phone. And none of those rules bothered me then and it’s funny how now they just scream “safety” and “protection” in a world where most of that has gone missing.
It wasn’t until closer to the years before I left that room that I began to really understand that not all little girls experience that safety in their homes. That lives can be full of pain without an anchor, of storms that not only beat on the outside but move right in and beat on the inside, closest to your heart. That there were girls with adults in their lives who were not adults, who were not protectors or friends. There are few things that break my heart quite like that. Because I want to gather up every little girl and put her in my room and give her a portion of my safety. But I know that their Father wants that more than I do and that someday He will redeem and restore and wipe tears and mend hearts…and this time for good. And He is preparing beautiful rooms for all those little girls and boys where at last they will feel that safety that comes, not from a place but from the Presence of a Person.
But for now I have been given four little people who depend upon me and their dad to create the environment that will define their childhood. And little eight year old me didn’t seem to travel to age thirty-one with much of a care if I “explored” all the world had to offer or if I got to “figure it out on my own.” Instead I find myself very grateful for those wise and courageous enough to set up beloved walls that shut me in safely with my Heavenly Father until I knew Him well enough to venture out and to know when I was traveling with Him and when I was going astray. To recognize His Presence or His absence quickly in the choices laid in my path. So I think I will lean heavily on His Guidance, asking Him to give me just the right boundaries erected for my children, not out of fear, but out of a desire to give them that beautiful growing time in their “room” until their time is right to go out into their world. For there is plenty of time to see all that is out there and to see that the timeless lie of Satan is still at play from the Garden of Eden until today. The lie that if we just go see it and try it all out, his way is great and we will not die, we will just be like God knowing good and evil. When really all we need to know is HIM and we will recognize so, very quickly what simply doesn’t measure up…which is everything that does not come from HIM. It seems that after all the tools needed for that “magical” childhood experience, anchored in the only real safety we have in this broken world are the words of Deuteronomy 6 that keep repeating themselves in my heart as a continuous chant of commitment to seek this first and nothing else before it. May we be fully devoted to this precious calling!
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.