My lovely wife and life partner Lois and I were awakened at 2:45 a.m. by our 5-year-old grandson Owen. “I had a bad dream,” he sobbed. We comforted him and took him to the kitchen for his favorite snack, string cheese and milk.
After he settled down a little (string cheese and milk are famous for their calming effects), he explained the villain in the dream was a scary vampire. He described the creature as very small, in fact only a few inches high, but terrifying nonetheless.
He continued he only woke up unscathed because Pops, yours truly, saved him. It’s also great to know I’ve now got “Vampire Fighter” on my resume, so I’m genuinely moved my grandson thinks of me that way. So I’ve got that going for me.
Seriously, I’m overwhelmed with joy and a frankly a little nervous of the responsibility that this little boy holds me in such regard. I pray daily for his protection and my wisdom that I wouldn’t, God forbid, ever disappoint him.
As it turns out, the source of his fear likely stemmed from games that included zombies and vampires. He has a real affinity for and is definitely drawn to these kinds of characters. Of course, we, along with my son, daughter-in-law, and his other grandma are careful to limit his screen time. If you are a 21st-century parent or grandparent, you know the challenges of daily media maintenance.
As I got ready for work, Lois found an unlikely hero to divert our boy from his fears.
He’s an old sailor man named Popeye.
This was especially touching for me since Popeye was my favorite as a boy that age. This cartoon goes back to the late twenties! Popeye has a proven track record that’s not only fun for kids, but can also teach some simple life lessons: Good conquers evil, (the dastardly Bluto) faithfulness, (“I’ll saves ya, Olive Oyl!”) and of course the merits of good vegetable roughage. (Spinach!)
Lois and I have been taking Owen to church regularly since he was two, and we try to be ready at all times to answer inevitable questions regarding God and His place in the life of a preschooler. This time he earnestly wanted to know why he had a bad dream when we specifically prayed about that very thing last night at bedtime.
Why did God let that happen?
Tough question. Tough not only for a 5-year-old kid, but for any of us. When we pray for something and it doesn’t happen, how do we explain it?
For Owen, we said that while we don’t always get what we pray for, we can trust that God is loving, wise, and will always take care of us. He may have allowed a bad dream this time as a lesson to stay away from those kinds of scary characters in games, movies, and TV.
What about you? What is God showing you through disappointments and unanswered prayers? Could it be he’s redirecting your steps? The best way to know is through consistent time spent with Him.
And in the meantime, a little Popeye couldn’t hurt.
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