“Has eyes,” he said to me in his lispy, somewhat garbled, 2-year-old speech. I leaned on the side of his air mattress and peered up through the screened ceiling of our tent, trying to gain his perspective. Tree branches arched overtop, and twilit sky shone through their leaves, producing a mottled effect. Two or three stars began to wink as the daylight faded.
“What has eyes, honey? The sky? The trees? The stars? No, they don’t have eyes. I have eyes, see? And you do. But they don’t.”
“Has eyes,” he repeated in a whisper, tilting his head.
Whatever it was that ‘had eyes,’ it was sufficiently worrisome to prevent him from going to sleep. And so it was decided, between my husband and I, to head outside and put the fly over the tent. The air may have been perfect for a breeze, and the sky for gazing, but we would sacrifice them to avoid having to deal with a sleep-deprived toddler in the morning.
Throughout the camping trip, it was apparent that our young son had a decidedly unique way of viewing his experiences. On the way to the campground, the old Ukrainian orthodox churches we passed, with their onion-shaped steeples, were ‘castles.’ The distant silhouette of trees against the horizon, appearing to move backwards as we drove past, was a ‘train.’
And perhaps the most surprising event came later on, at the beach. I was pulling him to the shore after holding him up in the deeper water, when his feet brushed against the sandy bottom of the shallows. He immediately flew into hysterics, screaming loudly and pulling his knees to his chest. His facial expression and the calibre of his voice portrayed a terror that could not have been simulated.
“It’s okay, put your feet down! That’s just the shore!” I called above the clamour he was making. However, my words, to him, were empty. The squishy, yet firm and somewhat slimy surface he had bumped into was most assuredly, in his mind, some horrific entity. A giant fish, perhaps. Or a sea creature. It was going to eat him…or worse.
We couldn’t help but laugh about our son’s reaction to something as harmless as a sandy shore. And yet, I wonder if I am much different.
Like a scared child, I bump up against things I don’t understand. I imagine things that aren’t there. I over-estimate the power that they have.
Life is terrifying. Am I the only one who thinks that?
But a voice, like a parent, calls above my chaotic thoughts. Though I can’t always hear Him above my own screams, He holds me up when I’m too afraid to put my feet down.
I reach for this presence, when I cannot see the end of some enormous threat. His sight is clear, and His demeanor is calm. He doesn’t fault me for my silliness, weakness, or even my lack of trust. He won’t drop me, just because I act like the toddler that I am.
Who or what do you reach for when you’re afraid? I would love to hear your ideas in the comments section below.