I’m worried about Billy and I wouldn’t want to leave him behind.
It’s ten o’clock at night and I’m changing bedsheets. I’d forgotten earlier.
I’ve been distracted, looking at my computer screen changing words around, editing, writing this story of mine. I never made it down to his room to put new sheets on his bed.
What are you talking about? I ask, as I pile the menagerie of stuffed animals from his bed to the floor, pull off the comforter, unwrap the corners of the sheets from the mattress.
Billy, the frog. If we have a fire. I don’t want to leave him behind.
The most important thing if there’s a fire is to get out, I say looking at his face.
There is worry in his eyes.
Well, Mrs. Miller said we shouldn’t take the time to get any pets out. And Zuzu and Clarence can run out, but Billy’s in the tertarium. He always says it wrong.
Are you talking about fire safety at school? I ask.
Yeah, and I was thinking, we probably won’t have a fire, will we?
No, probably not. But, I add with motherly authority, it’s always best to be prepared because there’s always a possibility that something could go wrong.
Then I tell him about Jesus saying that the Father in Heaven sees any sparrow that falls and dies. And how much more valuable are you than a sparrow?
I don’t get it, is his answer.
Okay, I begin again. God made the birds and there are millions and millions of them, yet he notices when even one bird dies. I have four kids, just four, but God knows everything about them. He knows how many hairs are on your head. He says that he cares about birds, but he cares about you more, because you belong to me, and to him. And I only have one Nikko, he’s worth more than a million frogs. Way more.
He smiles. That makes sense.
I pull the sheets taut and layer the blanket and comforter and say a silent prayer for safety. The orca and lion and tiger and bears and snakes and sixteen other furry friends go back to their spot on the foot of the bed where they will watch over him sleeping. I say goodnight, and dad takes over.
Upstairs I sit on the couch shoulder to shoulder with my oldest and watch the explosion at the fertilizer plant in Texas. Even on the ridiculously small screen of her smart phone, the blast shocks, reaches from the phone and takes our breath away.
Really, big fire. Many sparrows. And my heart breaks and cries out, will this week end? And I know it goes on and on, this destruction, and we go on, changing sheets and eating dinner and writing stories and saying our goodnights.
And I feel suffocated by the enormous loss we suffer every day. And I say, Jesus come soon. And I recite in my head the psalm that sustains me:
The Lord is my Light and my Salvation,
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the Strength of my life,
Of whom shall I be afraid?
It isn’t that these things aren’t frightening. They are. I do feel like Billy the frog, trapped in a terrarium, oblivious to the disaster that may befall me. I’m completely dependent, and I need to know, on what, on whom I depend. Where is the source of hope when all around is panic and despair?
And I whisper these words from my bed and feel them cover the rooms of my house like clean sheets and tuck around those I love, that I can’t really protect. And I remind myself of the times My Lord has shown up to save me, to light the way, to give me strength to do the hard things.
Sure, it may be cliche that there are no atheists in foxholes, that conversion is the product of crisis. I’ve been accused of living, writing that cliche just recently. But no other option offers any hope; my imagination, my reason, cannot produce or contrive hope out of darkness. I need the Light. We need the Light.