Bedtime Routines, Dad-Talk, & God’s Presence | Matt Johnson

May 14th, 2017

Jesus loves me, this I know,  for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me! You may have heard (and sung) this Sunday School song countless times, but do you really believe it? Matt Johnson joins us today to share about how his bedtime routine with his daughters reminds him of the great love and constant presence of our Heavenly Father.

P.S. Make sure to grab a copy of Matt’s new release, Getting Jesus Wrong

I am a firm believer in the profound beauty of simple, child-like faith. I sing, “Jesus Loves Me” with my 5- and 8-year-old daughters every night at bedtime and give each of them a “dad-talk.” Words of affirmation, encouragement and occasional advice as we snuggle. Often though I have to remind myself to shut up, listen and not give advice. I want to listen well and attune to their sense of child-like imagination.

Our conversations are often random, but we commonly discuss their fears and frustrations. Things like playground politics and lately, test-taking anxiety. This is where I’m tempted to channel my inner toothy-grinned motivational speaking evangelist. I’m learning to bite my tongue.

These bedtime routine moments regularly school me in my own insecurities too. You see I want my kids to stand out from the crowd, make their dent in the world and succeed. They don’t need to blend in with the rest of the “normal” kids. They’re exceptional of course! And this is how I’d like to perceive myself as well.

These day-to-day insecurities interact with my faith and this is where I have to bite my tongue.  I want my skills, talents and abilities to be in service to the kingdom of God, of course. I want my efforts to matter and have impact. What I want for myself and for my girls is one and the same, really. The desire to live an impactful, meaning-filled life is a good desire to be sure. Often God works amidst the small and insignificant, not the noticeable and praiseworthy. This is where Jesus’ parables have sparked my imagination in new ways.  

There are specific theological lessons to glean from the parable teachings to be sure. At the same time, Jesus tells stories to spark our imagination for how the kingdom “works” in counterintuitive ways.

As the late churchman Robert Capon has said of the parables,

“God deals out salvation solely through the klutzes and nobodies of the world – through, in short, the last, the least, the lost, the little, and the dead.”

Don’t our own imaginings say something different? Wouldn’t it stand to reason that God is most present with those who are first, most, found, and larger than life? And yet, I know from hardship in my own life I’m often most aware of God’s presence amidst the lastness and the lostness. 

I’m not intending to parse out the specific theological meaning of Jesus’ parables here. I simply want to point out that the creative images he gives spark our imagination to see the world through different lenses.

How might this inform a bedtime routine with my kids as we discuss test taking anxiety and playground politics? That God is present in the mix of all things. Not just in good times, but in bad ones too. Not just when they feel like winners, ace a test, win achievement awards and follow rules. But when we’re sad, feeling overlooked, and even when they’ve blown it.

The same is true of we adults too, you know. God is present in the small things, too. Even when our achievements go overlooked in the workplace. When we comfort sick little ones at night, and when God comes to find us when we’ve lost our way. This is God’s presence in The Kingdom through the last, the lost, the least and the little.

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Matt Johnson

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Matt Johnson is a husband, father to two little girls, and is an armchair student of theology living in Seattle. He is also a freelance writer and editor. Until recently, Matt spent 7 years as an associate volunteer pastor in counseling and recovery ministry.

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