Wednesday, April 30, 2008

... dearest Jesus +

Every evening, we end our bedtime routine with Sydney by praying over her the prayer I grew up saying. My sister and I were blessed to grow up in a home rich with love and nurture. We were “tucked in” each and every night.

Actually, I can vividly recall the night some time in the mid-teenager years when I bravely (and in my mind oh-so-maturely) told my Dad and Mom that I was “okay” on my own.

I went into my bedroom. Closed the door; and laid there in the darkness listening to the whir of the ceiling fan, wishing I could somehow call out to my parents to come say goodnight and pray with me, while still preserving my sense of teenage independence. After that “Wendy-leaving-the-nursery” moment, I routinely invited Mom and Dad to still come say goodnight. Not every night, but enough to keep the ritual alive and well.

It was something of a tender and inexpressible joy to teach my husband this child’s prayer. He asked me to repeat each phrase again and again until he had it down pat. As we place our hands on our little baby each night and pray to our Heavenly Father, I can’t help but be moved. People who know me well are not surprised by this reflection; I have always been a “rooted” person. Sharing a bedtime prayer from my childhood with my child is a moment rich with heritage, constancy and tradition. Sharing this prayer reminds me of the blessings of my youth and the grace with which my parents raised me.

This prayer is yet my own and its tender simplicity has become a source of rich reflection over these last 16-weeks of new parenthood.

The prayer is this:

Dearest Jesus, wash away
all that has been wrong today.
Help me every day to be
good and gentle, more like thee.

Thus far, being a Mommy has revealed me to be a far better and far worse person than I knew I was. Far better in that I have discovered patience, which I never thought I possessed. I have encountered contentment, without the exhausting pursuit of perfection. I am learning that I have the capacity to be better and more comfortable and more relaxed in my own skin – something I have worked on all my life. And all it took was the arrival of a tiny creature so immensely beyond my ability to control and BAM, I feel calm.

As for the far worse … It has become patently obvious that: I am selfish. I am easily irritated at my dear husband. I am critical and impatient when the “routine” is not followed. And for some unexplainable reason, my faults seem amplified now that I realize there are little eyes watching. It’s unnerving.

And so, each night the words “wash away all that has been wrong today” strike a deep chord in me; and the hope to be “good and gentle more like thee” has new meaning as well.

I don’t know where my parents learned this prayer. I did a little Googling and found it as the second verse of an old German hymn, "Now the Light Has Gone Away" by Frances R. Havergal, 1836-1879, and there the first words are “Jesus Savior …” My Dad was raised in an extremely German home and I am guessing this came to our family through those channels, I don’t know.

Perhaps now that I am grown, I can add a verse or two to this simple prayer. It seems to me that nurturing devotion to the Father through prayer and song and Word will provide me and Leon with new and fresh and vibrant understanding about how we can better love Sydney. Our love for her is a direct overflowing of our love for Jesus … The hymn actually offers this idea in prayerful verse and concludes:

Thou, my best and kindest Friend,
Thou wilt love me to the end.
Let me love Thee more and more,
Always better than before.

This is a fitting prayer for our life with Jesus and our love for Sydney.

Simple? Sure.

True. Most assuredly.


CStaude said...

I enjoyed reading your thoughts and memories of our prayer time with you. I can tell you that I found the prayer exactly like you did.. in the hymn book. When you were little, the "Now I Lay Me" traditional prayer sort of "freaked me" out... something about the "if I die before I wake" business didn't sit well with me. So I looked through some evening songs in the hymn book and talked with Dr. Maehr who had a good handle on such things... and he shared that hymn with me and that became our prayer. SO... while not a Staude "German" tradition in the strictest sense.. still one that had it's origins linked to one of the finest Germans I've ever known... Papa Maehr!
Love you & we pray for all of you every night. Sydney is such a blessed little person to have you both!

+gmjameson said...

I love that! How cool that Papa Maehr is still influencing our family life! That's pretty awesome ...

Katrina said...

That IS cool! I liked this post too. I still say this prayer every night...right before I say Luther's evening prayer.... right before I say my own stream of conscious prayer. I still can't NOT say the childhood prayer -- it could be because I'm obsessive compulsive, but I think it's just because I like it. Tee hee! My kids say it too, although Gabe has two prayers he likes to use, so he swaps it up on occassion! How sad that you didn't want to be tucked in by dad anymore! I can't remember if I ever did that, or if he was still tucking me in at age 18. My guess is that was the case! LOVE YOU!