Without question the worst night of my life was the night my husband Micah planned to leave our home. Because not only was he going to leave me. He was going to leave our children.
Josiah was only eight years old. He is a very bright kid who excels in school. Being the only child for five years has made him quite independent. Gabriel, my kind-hearted middle son, had just turned four, and Judah, my loose cannon, had just turned two. Still too little to understand what was going on, the two littles had already gone to bed for the night.
Micah was just going to leave quietly, but I told him to tell our oldest son, Josiah. I did not want to be left to do that on my own. The conversation that followed was nothing short of horrific. Josiah could not comprehend what Micah was talking about. Micah had left the building of his mind. He was monotonous and unfeeling. It was almost an out-of-body experience for me, like I was watching it happen to someone else.
It seemed too horrible to be real. The whole traumatic event ended with Siah blocking the door with his little body and crying hysterically. He wouldn’t stop screaming, “Why? I just want to know why!” It was heart-wrenching.
After Micah left that night, Siah and I sat on the couch together. At first I tried talking to Josiah with my own logic. I don’t know why I bothered. That was not effective in calming down my child. At a complete loss and devastated myself, I know what happened next came from God. I explained the truth as best I could for an eight-year-old to understand.
I leveled with him. “Do you know how at church you learn that the devil is real and that he tries to trick people?”
“Yes,” Josiah answered.
“Well, I think he is trying to trick Daddy. What do we know we can do when the devil tries to trick us?” I asked.
“Pray?” he responded.
This conversation changed my course of parenting. In the months ahead, I would begin a battle fighting for my marriage, even after finding out my husband was having an affair. Though I did not go into details with my young kids (obviously) we did begin praying together at night.
The desperation I felt in trying to fix my marriage had prompted me to draw closer to God. I became convinced that God was not only hearing my prayers, but actively working in my situation. I began to notice his presence at work in my home, and I began to feel his calm and peace even in the midst of chaos.
The season of fighting for my marriage and becoming encouraged that God was strengthening me became an exciting adventure. (Only the Holy Spirit of a Living God could make a season like that a holy adventure). I encouraged the kids each night to not only thank God for things they were thankful for, but to bring their own petitions to him.
Now, four years after the trauma in my marriage, we still value this bedtime routine. When I say “routine”, I mean consistency, not ordinary. Prayer reaches the heart of an eternal, powerful, present God. That’s anything but ordinary.
When Micah told Josiah he was leaving our family, I prayed out loud for peace and healing over my kids and I asked the Holy Spirit to do his work in my family. I wanted them to know how to respond when bad things happen. Because bad things will happen.
Praying with the kids at bedtime has become a way to slow things down when they are just growing up too fast, or when the days seem chaotic, or hard. Coming together before the Lord has become a debriefing of sorts from the crazy world at times.
I want my kids to know how to pray.
I want to let them see me struggle so that they will be equipped to struggle. I can’t shield them from bad things. But I can let them know that when troubles come, we do not crumble. It’s ok to be hurt and weak at times, of course. But we do not despair. We do not fall apart like we have no hope, because we are not hopeless.
Hebrews 4:16 says “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” We have somewhere to go! The throne is occupied by a King with access, abundance, power, and with the completed work of the cross at our disposal.
While I don’t want my kids to suffer long, I do want them to face enough tension to establish confidence in approaching the throne. When do we do that? In time of need.
Today my marriage has been restored, and now my husband now lays hands on our children and blesses them, all of us growing in our faith together.
I know many marriages do not reconcile. I have several friends whose marriages ended in divorce. Yet, regardless of the outcome of a marriage, our children are watching us. I feel very fiercely that I do not want to shield my children from every bad thing.
I want my children to know the truth about God’s word. I want them to know about sin because I want them to know about redemption. I want them to know there is a real enemy. Because I want them to know we have a real savior. That God is real. God is bigger. God is stronger. When we need something, we know what to do.
Shauna Shanks is a wife, mother, and entrepreneur. She started Smallfolk, a health food café, out of her passion for health and fitness. She graduated from Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas, with a focus on world missions. Shauna and her husband, Micah, who is a police officer, have been married for more than a decade, and they live with their three boys on an Ohio farm. www.shaunashanks.com