Swifts and swallows dart through the afternoon sky. Aerobatics, aerial feats - a joy to watch. Nights are fresh, mornings still fresher. Browning leaves and slower growth, tell of the seasons soon to change. A month to relish the last strength of the sun, the long languid days, getting shorter with each delayed dawn. Our boys' bodies grow sleeker as their limbs stretch, nut-brown and toned from climbing, crawling, and clambering. A first night of sleeping "out". A brave endevour in the light of day, but as nocturnal creatures begin their various songs, courage fades. Coaxing, encouraging, another two pages of the bed-time book - still two pairs of eyes peer back at me from the green glow of their tent. Tired of reading, I leave them, watching the torchlight dance from within their little dome. The eldest continues reading aloud and when the dark finally closes in, I hear their small voices: "Are you afraid...?" "A little, but not really..." "I'm scared..." "Me too!..."
Deep sigh. I walk over to the tent, reassure them that the door is open, should they want to come inside at any time. "Ask Jesus to be with you" - I say, and turn to go and flop onto my easy chair and leave the busy day behind. A little voice stops me: "Can you please pray for us?"
So I pray. Something like this:
Father - we come to You through Jesus.
Please let Your peace be here with these precious children.
Please hold them tight and let them know You are near.
Please let them know that whatever it is that they are scared of, that You are Bigger.
That they are champions over everything with You.
That You protect them here and everywhere they go.
That they are not alone with You,
That they never will be,
And that You love them so very very much.
More than we can ever know or love.
Even if we love them so.
Let their eyes close softly and sweet sleep come over them now.
In Your name, Jesus, we ask.
I listen for the "Amen" chorus from the tent, but instead I hear a familiar snore and a softer deep breathing. So simple. As I tip-toe away and hear the deck-planks groan under my weight, I expect one of them to call me back. But nothing comes. All is peaceful.
I thought of an episode of a series named "Hornblower" that we watched on Youtube - (the exploits of a young British Naval officer during the 18th century battles against Napoleon and his allies).
Horatio Hornblower's ship, the Indefatigable, is in Cádiz when Spain makes peace with France. Since Spain becomes officially neutral, the British ship of war is forced to leave. Spain has completed its turnaround and joined France in an alliance by the time the Indefatigable is escorting a convoy through the Straits of Gibraltar. Two Spanish galleys attack and the wind dies down. The Captain announces in a heavy voice: "Gentlemen, we are becalmed".
I have been wondering about that word. Becalmed. No wind. In this instance, the ship is a "sitting duck" with the enemy attacking from both sides. It appears to be a death sentence. (But inevitably, it provides an opportunity for the hero Hornblower to come to a surprising rescue, and all ends well...)
We often speak of the "calm before the storm". Fear things with fangs in the dark when all is peaceful. A stalker in the night when all is still and an an unfamiliar sound makes you sit up in your bed. The unknown. The future.
While it is true that we live in "this present darkness" with the enemy as a prowling lion in the streets, Jesus stands over this lion, his jaws in His hands. He IS the oil for our lamps in the darkest night. He stands at the helm of a doomed ship and says. "My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, do not be afraid." (John 14:27). Be calmed.
Trust the calm. Don't question the gift. What we fear, most often does not come and whatever comes, has been foreseen and overcome with Him.