I heard the sniffling before I saw her. She descended the last step of the stairs and revealed her flushed, tear-streaked face. “What is wrong?” I implored. She replied, to my surprise, “I am so scared of the people who bombed the towers.” My heart ached, and my compassion for her late night fear was ignited. She was being haunted not by the typical childhood fear of the dark, but instead – a legitimate fear of darkness itself. This was the first year she had been mature enough to understand the depths of the tragedy of 9/11, and it was keeping her up at night. We had talked to her about it before, but this year she was more aware. They taught her History in her fourth grade class, and terror settled into her soul.
I held her close and did my best to speak louder than the voices of horror. I reminded her that there is good, that some hearts are made of flesh instead of stone, and that evil will eventually be overcome. I said in short, “Yes this is true, but we can stand against it. We need not be afraid. Fear is just another one of evil’s temptations to keep us from true life. We must be courageous. Don’t forget: God is in control, and you are His.”
There comes a time in the lives of children where parents can no longer shield them from the reality that there is trouble in this world, and it is our job to equip them to know how to stand against it. I have four children ranging from 10-4, and this tenderhearted one, is eight. The shock of processing the events of a broken world was too much this night, and I knew it wouldn’t be the last.
I snuggled her slender frame and sloppy face to my side, lifted her chin, and gently asked her, “What does your name mean?” Having been told many times she replied, “I have the light.”
There is a reason we chose her name to have that meaning. We knew that in life she would need to be reminded. The world is scary sometimes, and things are often out of our control, but we get to decide if we will shine light or bring darkness. We wanted our daughter to know, she would have the light.
Sometimes I question my decisions to be so open with my children about the facts of life; that it’s not always easy, in life there will be suffering, and that evil is a real and present danger. But I won’t lie to my children so they can find false comfort. While I do try to protect the beauty of childhood innocence, I also want them to know truth, have hope, and find the secret to being content in all circumstances. I cannot hide my children from the world, but I can teach them to live in it courageously.
I acknowledged that this fear for her (and many others) is real, but that does not mean we cower. I tried to help her understand the luxuries of freedom and protection she has just because she lives in America. We also continuously try to teach our children to have a global perspective. While I hold my weeping child who is making up improbable dramas in her head, there are other children falling asleep to the sounds of waging warfare. I tell her of the things I have seen, and of the times Mommy and Daddy have traveled the world to offer help and the hope of Christ. Someday, I hope to take her with me so she can see how vast humanity truly is, and join me in the ultimate good we were both made for.
How can we share our light? How can we bring awareness to the next generation? Will we teach them to hide or teach them to rise? May we be bold, willing to face our own fears, and may we point at Jesus even when our eyes are washed with waves of tears. For the leaders of tomorrow are watching, asking if they can do the same.
Readers, Whether you have children or not, you can impact the next generation. How can you influence others to be in the light?
Chara is a freelance writer, certified biblical counselor, and speaker. She holds a MSEd from Corban University and is passionate about seeing people set free through God’s truths. She loves to write about faith, culture, and the deep truths that drive our fascinations with it. Chara is the founder and editor of Anchored Voices and can be found on multiple social media platforms @CharaDonahue.