Facing the Upside Down

I had a pretty unusual reaction to the sight of my kid on roller skates for the first time. Surrounded by flashing lights, loud music, and laughter, what came throbbing out of my throat was nothing less than a sob. From the depths of my stomach. From the depths of my soul. My oldest boy bravely trying….oh, he was trying. But those slick wheels paid no mind. They spun and he flopped. So. Many. Times. I watched from across the rink with a baby on my hip, unable to reach him. And my biggest fear at that moment was not a bone-splintering kind, the kind I felt in my own childhood on brand-new, white-sneaker-styled, hot-pink-wheeled roller skates that put me down on my wrist and into a hot-pink cast on my first try. No, that’s a tiny fear. The gargantuan fear is the letting go. It is the clutching fear that that boy is going out into a big world and I won’t always be near to protect him. Those flailing arms, the wobbly legs trying to catch their balance are merely metaphorical for making our way through life. And for a mom it seems unbearable that God would put the gangly baby arms and legs into my arms and within short time require that I let him go out into the roller rink of life. So soon. I grew up in the 80s when we were actually allowed to take off on our bikes to buy candy at the neighborhood drugstore and run through the neighbors’ yards after dark playing ghost in the graveyard. I think that’s why all of us watching Stranger Things (Netflix) love it so much. We remember the freedom of that era. Growing up when the world seemed just a little bit better. The Internet didn’t give us anxiety. Friendships played out in real life and not just online. But, how? How, now, in this age, as a mom, can I be the one letting go? How can I be the Winona Ryder character permitting my son to ride off on a bike while the darkness of the Upside Down lurks? Because as much of a stretch for the imagination Stranger Things is, it really isn’t. Glimpses into the Upside Down reveal shadows of death and demons. It’s make-believe. But we take one look at the world news and we know that there is a real evil network working somewhere. Working overtime. The Bible warns: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against, the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”(Ephesians 6:12)

The battle is too big for me. I, in and of myself, am powerless against that kind of spiritual throng. But, with God, I have nothing to fear. And that is the hope I have to share with my children. When I pray over my kids, I pray in a mighty name – the name of Yahweh. When He walked on Earth, demons scattered at His voice, and in the hidden places even now, they cower at His very mention. In His name, we slay bedtime fears. Little ears that overhear frightening news soundbites find comfort in assurances from holy pages. Do not fear the schemes of man. An evil man may claim your life but he has no stake in your soul. We speak this boldly because we have these bold words gifted to us: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:38-39) Not even death. Jesus descended to the dead, he went into the Upside Down to call us out of it, to call us out of fear, to call us out bondage. All through love. What Stranger Things presents so vividly in the underbelly, it lacks in the hope in the heavenly. Eleven is a compelling heroine but we need a savior in Jesus Christ. We worship a powerful and living God. “If God is for us, who can stand against us?” (Romans 8:31)  NO one. Even if it feels like life is spinning out of control as fast as roller skates can carry it, we are never beyond the grip of the Savior. This is what I tell my kids after I compose my shaking voice and heavy heart in the scary times. We lift our arms toward heaven and pray. “God loves you,” I whisper. This is all I can give them when I let them go. I cannot vanquish beasts – the seen and the unseen – but I can teach them a faith that will have them grounded in the face of terror. I can teach them to clothe themselves for the battle:

“Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything to stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:13) Truth, righteousness, the Gospel, faith, salvation, and the Spirit of God….these are the pieces of armor, my little ones. These are your protection. I will stand here and watch you skate away in short order. And I will work on the not fearing part. And I will trust God with you. And whatever happens, if you trust Jesus with your life, I will find you on the other side. Not the Upside Down. Just the upside. Forever and ever, Amen.

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