Our house has recently suffered a monster infestation. Apparently, there are monsters in the garage, monsters in the bathroom, even monsters in the living room. Or so our two-year-old tells me. She is deeply afraid.
Every time she exclaims,”but there’s a monster!” and refuses to go into a room (or refuses to be left alone in one), the nice, pat answer pops into my head: there’s no such thing as monsters, sweetie.
But really, by what definition is that true? No scary beasts? What are pythons, hippopotamuses, whales, sharks, cobras, or hyenas? No invisible, silent killers? Like viruses? Nothing supernatural, profoundly evil, and devious? There’s fallen angels and demons. Rare but human evil? Serial killers, child molesters, genocidal dictators. Nothing commonplace and evil? We need look no farther than the mirror. I can’t tell her monsters don’t exist. It’s not outside of the sovereignty of God that there could indeed be a murderer lurking in the closet, after all.
So what can I say? I can dutifully go and look, and inform her that there is nothing there. But lately we’ve been working through our own little monster catechism: Who is bigger than the monsters? God. Who is in control over the monsters? God. Who created everything, even the monsters? God. Who is the only one Who can keep you safe from the monsters? God. Who is always with us, always watching us? God. So should you be afraid? No.
I’m struck by the questions that are missing from our little rehearsal. There’s no promise of safety, no promise of a monsterless room, no promise of protection. This is one of the times when I’m deeply feeling the difference between being a Christian parent and being a lost one. I’d like to tell her some empty platitudes about how everything is going to be all right, there’s no such thing as monsters, that Mommy’s going to keep her safe. But that’s not true, and I’d rather teach her that there is One who is completely capable of keeping her safe, One who is perfectly good–and teach her that she can depend on His goodness and mercy whether there’s a monster in the next room or not, whether the monsters are banished or whether they have her for supper.
She’s beginning to grasp some of this. “I can go upstairs because God will be with me?” Yes. “I don’t have to be afraid?” Yes. She recites our little litany herself now, and it actually works. While I can’t persuade her with promises of chocolate (yes, I’ve tried), she apparently can be persuaded by the very idea of an invisible God. It’s thoroughly cool, and also terrifying, because I want her to have a right vew of God, and it’s so hard to explain Him to a two-year-old. Has she noticed that I haven’t promised that God would keep her safe, only that He can? Is her idea of God like a cosmic Santa Claus? Am I communicating also the incredible depth of the justice and righteousness of God? His fearsomeness? That He is, in fact, more worthy of fear than any monster that could ever haunt her dreams? It’s complicated to communicate all this to her.
For Mommy, though, this has all been a really good reminder. I shouldn’t be brave because I’m grown-up enough to think that the monsters don’t really exist. Whether the monsters are imaginary ones lurking in the garage, or real ones lurking on street corners, I should be brave because God is God over them as surely as He is God over me.