Two weeks ago, we visited friends in New Hampshire and happened to choose an episode of the Backyardigans that involved a torture scene. I ask you, who wrote a torture scene into a children’s show?
The dinosaur Tasha plays a villain who captures her friends only to tie them to racks and inflict a tickling white-gloved hand until they reveal some secret.
Honestly, I didn’t like it all that much. My son came running from the television to my lap and shouted, “Skeered, skeeeeered!” So we changed the show, but the damage was done.
He could not go to sleep that night. It reminded me of the way I sweated through a night of sleep after watching The Green Mile. I was in college and had practiced fighting the nighttime demons for years.
My son has had no practice fighting monsters that come in the dark. When I rushed over to him, he told me he was scared. “What are you scared of?” I asked him.
For the record, my son has never been able to identify something specific he is scared of, which makes me think it’s a ruse to get out of bed. But this night, he had an answer.
“Tasha,” he said quietly, “dinosaur Tasha.” Tasha the tickling villain.
It wasn’t for another few days when my husband returned from a writer’s conference that he gave my son a mantra to repeat, a meditation for bed that carried him through the night.
“The dinosaur will not get you,” he told Finn while he was brushing his teeth and wiping down his grubby toes.
“The dinosaur will not get you,” he said to Finn while he carried him up the stairs.
“The dinosaur will not get you,” Finn said to me at every pause in the Curious George book I read to him each night.
“The dinosaur will not get you,” he told me as I covered him with his baby alpaca blanket.
Most nights I bless him, “The Lord bless you and keep you and make his face shine upon you,” or ”The Lord is your shepherd, you will not be in trouble.”
But tonight I echoed his mantra, “The dinosaur will not get you, Finn.”
Mantras are instruments of thought, statements that act like technology, tools promising the power of transformation. Mantras usually get associated with Eastern religions. But Westerners forget that the God of Israel came to an eastern people group and took their name forever (Exodus 3:15).
The God of Israel wants to blend mantras with his presence to create a cocktail so powerful we can face the monsters under our beds, the demons in our family tree, the shame we claim as a bedfellow each night.
Face and conquer. For we are more than conquerors in this God who became flesh, this God who loves us (Romans 8:37).
I believe the God of Israel wants to participate in our mantra work, he isn’t a bystander or a previous pilgrim who left a map. Jesus is a companion, a friend for our spiritual journey who can transform our mantras into prayer.
And when we invite him into our fears, we find we’re like my son who stilled as I told him the monsters would not get him and closed his eyes and slept the whole night, soundly.
His early mantras are built on something I know about the fabric of this blue globe and the God who formed it.
O Lord my God,
I cried to You for help, and You healed me.
O Lord, You have brought up my soul from Sheol;
You have kept me alive, that I would not go down to the pit
The next morning when my son woke, and I lifted him out of his tent, he said with a sleepy smile, “The dinosaur will not get you.”
Fear may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning (Ps 30:5).
Image credit: http://becomeauthentic.files.wordpress.com/