Not long ago I had a nightmare. In my dream the Nazis had taken over the country where we lived. Because my husband was Jewish (he isn't, but in the dream he was), we knew that he and our children were in great danger.
We were all taken to some sort of compound and left in a room with bunk beds. We slept, but in the middle of the night, a seemingly friendly official awoke us to tell us of the regime's plans to create pristine factories to be staffed by the expatriate Americans still left in the country. He seemed to be seeking our advice or approval for this plan, and we nodded our heads as he described how good the conditions would be and showed us pictures of a prototype. It looked wonderful. Everything was clean; even the floors were a gleaming white, and the workers were dressed neatly in starched white uniforms. But in our hearts we knew that it was all a ploy to gain our compliance; our captors did not intend any good for us.
Our fears were confirmed when this same official returned to our room to inform us that my husband and I would be taken immediately, and we were to leave our children behind. "This will be the last time you see them," he said, "so make it good." My two older boys, ages 4 and 2, were standing there, sleepy and a bit confused, and as I looked at them, my heart was in agony. I wanted to cling desperately to them and sob out my heartbreak, but I knew I needed to keep my emotions in check, because I didn't want to frighten them, and I wanted their last memory of me to be positive. Above all, in our final moments together, I wanted to impress on their young minds the importance of clinging to Jesus. He would now be the only one caring for them and our only hope of one day being reunited.
How do you communicate to such young children all that is necessary in such a short amount of time? I stood still, trying desperately to form my swirling thoughts into words that their little minds would understand and remember long after I was gone. The tension of the moment was too great, and I woke up.
Sometimes when you wake in the middle of a nightmare, your heart is pounding and your mind is racing. It takes a few moments for you to realize that it was all just a dream, but when you do, profound relief and sometimes even elation immediately flood in. This waking was not like that. My body and mind were calm, and as soon as I opened my eyes, I understood that I had been dreaming. But though I was relieved, the terror of the dream remained with me, and I lay in bed praying earnestly that, no matter what happened, my precious children would follow Jesus.
Hours later, the effect of this dream was still with me and was subtly affecting my interactions with my children. What if this were the last time I would see them? Had I taught them everything I could about the things that really mattered? Resolving their fights now centered more around teaching them that they were brothers and best friends who needed to take care of each other rather than finding out who was at fault. And I found myself frequently stopping what I was doing just to hug them and tell them that I loved them and that Jesus loves them even more.
This was a little over a week ago, and my eldest son already seems to be developing a different, more caring attitude towards his younger brother. And I think that perhaps I'm learning to enjoy my children more intentionally, even in the midst of the confusion and chaos that they generate. Though I would never want to revisit it, one day I may look back on this nightmare as one of the best things that ever happened to my parenting strategy.
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What about you? Has something extremely unwelcome ever turned out to be a blessing in disguise?
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