My youngest son, Simon, is a bright kid. And very imaginative. But he doesn't do well under pressure. He likes to have time to think things over and process his thoughts and feelings.
Well, ever since the boys moved into the basement bedroom together, we've had a certain bedtime routine. The boys brush their teeth and get in their pajamas, we have our Bible time on the couch, and then we go downstairs to tuck the boys into bed and pray.
At first the boys just listened, but once we thought they were old enough, we began asking them to participate more. This quickly became a point of contention with Simon because asking him to pray caused him to feel pressure. And I cannot emphasize this enough: he does not do well under pressure.
The pressure was exacerbated when we were forced to institute a youngest to oldest rule to avoid the nightly "It's your turn" "No I went first last time" "I'll be first three times and then Simon will be first three times" arguments. We didn't want to fight about it and we didn't want to keep track, so the youngest to oldest rule seemed like a good idea, especially since Andy could then be the closer.
And so it has gone for a couple years now. Simon has often tried to get out of it, but we've persisted in asking him to participate, even if it's just in the smallest of ways, because we believe it is important. We usually remind him ahead of time and give him hints about ways he can be preparing himself for prayer time so he can do all the processing he needs to do.
The other day, however, as we were walking downstairs at bedtime, Andy told the boys to start thinking of something they were thankful for and Simon's shoulders immediately started to slump.
"I can never think of anything," he said, his little spirit already shrinking under the pressure.
"Well, we have tons of things to be thankful for," Andy replied. "I'm sure you can think of something."
So we got the boys tucked into bed and we all held hands as Andy announced he wanted us all to thank God for something, youngest to oldest. I could feel Simon's hand grip mine tightly as he began to panic.
"Can Michael please go first?" he begged.
We could all hear the desperation in his voice. Andy agreed to bend the rules for one night only and Michael sighed. Oh the plight of being the longsuffering older sibling!
"Dear God," Michael prayed. "Thank you that our lives aren't all bad."
Um, okay. Way to look at the bright side there, buddy.
Then Andy squeezed Simon's hand, indicating it was his turn. I could almost hear him hyperventilating as the wheels in his mind turned, searching for something to say. I rubbed the back of his hand with my thumb in encouragement, knowing all he had to do was think back over his day to come up with something he could be thankful for. Legos, friends, playing outside, the baby chicks, Easter candy. Any of those things.
As an awkward silence ensued, I rubbed Simon's hand again. I was sure he would choose Easter candy.
"Dear God," he finally began, his voice barely above a whisper. "I...um...thank you for....um...air."
That's as good a prayer as any, if you ask me. Preach on brother.