Billy Coffey for crosswalk.com
I’m not sure when my nighttime routine began, though I’m fairly sure it was after I became a father. It’s nothing very elaborate, but that doesn’t mean it’s unimportant. It is, truly. In fact, I find I can’t sleep unless it’s all been done.
Much of it revolves around a final pass through the house. I make sure the doors are locked and the porch light is on. (The second seems to take more importance; there are plenty of folks here who don’t bother locking their doors, just as they leave their keys in their vehicles. Don’t tell anyone, though. Our secret.) I make sure the timer on the coffee pot is turned on, and that the lamp by the window is lit in case someone stumbles out of bed thirsty in the middle of the night. I’ll check to make sure my son is adequately covered and hasn’t flipped and flopped his blankets off. My final stop is to check my daughter’s sugar, because she may sleep, and we all may sleep, but diabetes never does.
I always pray over my children then. Every night, without fail. They don’t know this; I’ve never told them. I suppose doing so is as much for my benefit as theirs. I have an uneasy relationship with the night, which may be why it appears so often in my stories. It’s the time of day when I get most of my work done, and yet I spend much of that time peering into the shadows for what isn’t there. My prayers are the usual ones—help us to sleep well, bless our family, let Your angels stand guard.
And keep us safe, always that. Always a lot of that.
I once heard a preacher talk about praying for safety. He said Christians shouldn’t place a premium on such a thing as that. This is, after all, one of the safest countries in the world in one of the safest times in history. Praying for security is a waste of our words, he said. What we should pray for instead is boldness. That’s what we need. We’re often content to remain where we are because that’s where everything is safe and familiar. God wants us to go forth and conquer new lands, both within and without. He wants us to Become. According to the preacher, there is no Becoming in safety.
I’ll admit he stepped on my toes a little with that. It’s probably true that I need more boldness than safety, just as it is true about all those new lands. I know I need to Become.
So maybe instead of praying that God will keep my family safe, I should pray that he will keep us on our toes. Rather than asking that his angels stand guard over us, I should ask that they charge ahead of us into new places and new ways of seeing things. Maybe I’ve been tricked into thinking that my life is better thought of as something to be endured rather than made better, as if my purpose in being here is to comfort myself before I comfort others.
But maybe praying for safety is important, too. It reminds me that despite what I might sometimes believe, I am small. Just a tiny speck in a big world that is oftentimes much more scary than it is beautiful, and in need of a great deal of help. Perhaps if I had the faith of that preacher I once heard, I wouldn’t need to ask for so much safety. Perhaps if I had his view of the world, I would see no reason to fear anything. I would instead see the battle as already won and the last sentence already written, one punctuated with an exclamation point rather than a period.
That is the hope for which I aim. That is the faith I want. And I believe I do not yet have it because I look at this world and see an encroaching night. I see so much of what has gone wrong. So tonight, I will add to my prayers for safety a will to chase away what shadows I can. I will pray that I can peer through the night to see the day behind it. I will see what has gone wrong with the world, and what I can do to make it right.
Billy Coffey dreamed of being a published author ever since high school but vowed he would never be a novelist. Four novels later, God had a different plan in mind. Coffey’s novels tackle faith’s big questions against the backdrop of the rural South, where history is long and things are seldom as they seem. His latest release is The Devil Walks in Mattingly.
Coffey aims to remain as true to reality as possible — the reality that we experience pain, loss and confusion. He doesn’t want his readers to escape reality, but embrace life and live it better. He also uses his blog, “What I Learned Today,” to reflect on life’s lessons offered in small moments, people and everyday life. Coffey lives with his wife and two children in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.
For more information about Billy Coffey and his books, visit his online home at www.billycoffey.com, become a fan on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.