Prayer for a Christmas Miracle
To family, friends, and anyone else who would read this,
Right now, it's one o'clock in the morning. Which means it's officially been Christmas Eve for an hour. I'm in the dining room, barely maintaining consciousness. Carly's in the bedroom, trying to sleep. But I know she can't help but hear Risa's sobs, and I know she doesn't sleep well without me by her side, so I know whatever sleep she's getting right now is accomplishing little. I would go to her, but I hear nothing when I'm asleep, and she loves me enough to let me sleep, which means she'll deal with Risa on her own for as long as she can, late into this Christmas Eve early morning, when she should be resting. So I'm staying up. So I can be with Risa, and Carly can rest.
The last few nights have been this way. It actually happens somewhat predictably now. Whenever Carly and I have an opportunity to experience a breakthrough moment with a couple, where they make a leap forward in intimacy, or trust, or understanding, Risa has nightmares. She's such a sensitive spirit, her bad dreams weigh on her like a yoke. Last night, she woke up screaming. I carried her into the hallway, where hopefully she wouldn't wake her baby sister.
"Look at me," I said to her, firmly but gently. Her eyes met mine. "Can you see me?" I asked.
"Yes," she said through heavy tears.
"Do you know who I am?"
Her eyes dotted back and forth across the ceiling behind me, like she was watching something scurry from corner to corner. I asked her what she was looking at, but she wouldn't answer. She just shook and cried in my arms. I took her to my bed and laid down with her. Eventually, she fell back to sleep, and after a while I took her back to her room.
This morning she told Carly that she dreamt of a horse. The horse came from her wall, and was sad because it didn't know where its family was - and she was scared because she didn't know how to help it. Risa's dreams are often like this. Animal themed. She dreamt for a long time of a dragon before we moved her into her sister's room, which they now share. This afternoon, at nap time, she dreamt of a bear that tried to eat her. Tonight, an hour or so after she went to bed, she awoke screaming again. Carly managed to make out that an elephant trunk was trying to get her, and she watched helpless and afraid as Risa batted at empty air to make it stop.
A church elder and his wife stopped by the house today to pray. Not the first time that our house, their rooms, and our children have been prayed over. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn't. There isn't exactly a spiritometer on the wall to measure the potency of prayers. I have always been slow to blame my painful experiences on the devil, or his soldiers. The world and the sinners in it (myself included) are plenty corrupt enough to get by causing pain and hardship without any help from the enemy. And yet I can't deny that there's something about this that feels deliberate. I keep having images in my head of teeth and claws. It feels like something is attacking my daughter. To get to my wife. To get to me.
The work we do at Not Easily Broken is important. We've never doubted that. But we've had a peculiar opportunity in the last couple of months to come alongside a number of couples, each of whom, in their own way, is fighting for their marriages. Sometimes I think that the only thing the devil hates more than a thriving, God-honoring marriage, is a thriving, God-honoring marriage built on the wreckage of a marriage that was nearly broken. That's the story of my marriage - one that seemed shattered beyond repair by so much pain, faithfully and meticulously pieced back together by the God Who Is Love. And now we take that journey into the world and find other marriages in need of hope, and we offer it to them. We set the foundations, we draw up the blueprints. We shape the stone and carve the wood. We build marriages of beauty on the ashes of brokenness. And Satan hates that. I'm sure of it.
Do I know, with certainty, that Satan or his minions have taken it upon themselves to harm my daughter, in an effort to stop the work that Carly and I are doing? No. But here's what I do know:
This Christmas has seemed especially important, for reasons I can't put my finger on. But it feels pregnant with significance. There's almost a texture, thick, like sand, in the air that surround this holiday season for my family. The 21st of December, 2017, was the second anniversary of the day we lost Manuel, our unborn son. On that day, after months of trying and little to no interest, we sold my car. Now, this may seem entirely unrelated, but we were wondering how we would pay our mortgage this month, our gas and water bills, and buy food, as well as how we would give our children the sense of celebration that this Christmas seems to demand. We're not wondering how we'll pay bills anymore. The car was just enough to cover everything we needed and some of what we wanted. The Lord giveth.
Then, yesterday, Carly and Risa got sick. Influenza A. I know that this Christmas has been important for Carly, and the Christmas Eve church service bears special significance for her. We won't be going in the morning, lest we infect more people with the flu. Does the Lord taketh away? Or is something else taking from us. Again - I feel a creeping sense of deliberateness. I don't know that something wants to keep us from celebrating the promise of redemption in the birth of a baby, but I know it feels that way.
I pray that Risa sleeps through the night. I pray that Carly is able to rest. I pray that they both heal from their sickness. I pray that Reyna and I stay healthy. Did I mention one of our dogs has a UTI? I pray for him, too. I pray for my mother, who arrives from California on Tuesday and may, at least, be wading into a Petri dish, and, at most, into a spiritual war zone. But most of all, I pray for Risa to be at peace.
I confess that I'm afraid for my daughter. I'm afraid that something I do not understand is hurting her heart and mind, and I don't know what to do to protect her. And yet I know that God's love is perfect, and that in the presence of His perfect love, there can be no fear. So I pray that God's love would rain down upon this household, and that we would not be afraid. I pray to know a peace that passes understanding. I pray that Carly would know the same. If there is something in this house, something that seeks to harm my child, I pray by the authority of Jesus Christ and his shed blood that it would be gone from this place.
Enemy of God - you are not welcome here. Your soldiers are not welcome here. Your influence is not welcome here. This is my house. You must go, by the name of Jesus Christ - you must go.
I know this is an obnoxiously long post, but if you've made it this far, and you think of it, please pray for my family over the next couple of days. I believe in the importance of Christmas being a celebration, and I believe in miracles, and I believe in the power of prayer.
And I believe we'll need all three in the next couple of days.