Since he was four years old, my son has suffered from migraine headaches. When he has an episode, the sequence of events is usually the same: He comes into our room around 3:00 a.m. He sidles up to my side of the bed and tells me his head hurts. I try to shake the fuzziness from my sleepy brain and focus on his dark silhouette and whispered words. After a minute, I get up and walk him to the kitchen where I dispense a dose of Motrin despite the fact that he will vomit it and everything else an hour or so later.
Early on, we took him to specialists. He was tested and scanned and given a clean bill of health. Nothing to worry about but nothing much we can do for him.
His headaches have decreased in the last year, and for this we are grateful. But when he does get one, my number one priority—in fact my only purpose for being awake in the wee hours of the morning—is to help him sleep. I know if I can only get him to fall asleep he will feel better. Two hours of uninterrupted, shut-eye is the best medicine for his headache to go from a pulsing, puking nightmare to a dull thud.
So I make his room as dark as possible. I adjust his ceiling fan and blankets to be sure he’s not too hot and not too cold. I try to create the most relaxing environment possible but, in the end, he has to will himself to sleep. He must choose to breathe deeply, stop grinding his teeth, and relax his scrunched up eyes and clenched fists. I can’t do it for him.
His distress reminds me of my own misery. Mine isn’t usually the physical kind, but it often involves fist-clenching and teeth-grinding, and if it goes on too long, some eye-twitching. My affliction is stress. I take on too much and bottle it up, owning the deadlines and commitments and failures until they wind me up like a tightly coiled spring—until they own me.
But I have a Heavenly Father who sits alongside me as I stew over my to-do list (and my shouldn’t-do list and my what-if list and my do-better list). He brushes the stray hairs from my face and rubs his thumb along my wrinkled forehead. Then he whispers, “Be still. I’m God, not you. I’m your ever-present help in times of trouble. Even if the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, I’ll still be here. So just be still.”
When I finally listen, I can feel his presence. My playlist of “Self-Reproach and Impending Disaster: Volume 101” stops repeating in my head. Well, let’s be honest, the words are still there but they move (maybe temporarily) into the background. Then I breathe deeply of His Spirit, and I unclench my fists so my hands are ready to accept His offerings of peace. I relax my scrunched up eyes so I can rest, so I can at last be still.