My three-year-old daughter and two-year-old son have recently become enamored with monsters and dinosaurs. They love roaring at each other (and me) and acting like terrible monsters that love to tackle anything in sight. This was especially fun during Christmas when my parents had large, breakable Santa figures sprinkled through the house. That jingling we heard wasn’t Rudolph on the roof—it was Santa losing a leg.
But their love of monsters and all things that roar completely dies when the lights go down for bedtime. On more than one occasion, I have heard cries of “Daddy!” as if a tree had just fallen through the roof and everyone was in imminent danger. When I arrive ready for anything, my sweet daughter asks, “Are there monsters in my room?"
This is a season where I get to be the hero every night. I get to check for monsters, I get to go monster hunting. But one discussion I have never had with my children, and do not intend to, is telling them monsters are not real. I will never tell them this because it is not true.
The truth is there are plenty of monsters in this world. There are monsters in my heart, and in their hearts as well. Sin is the murderous monster responsible for putting the Son of God on a cross. It murdered an innocent man. It is a truly terrible monster that is only more terrifying when you consider it does not bother to alert you to its presence with a roar, but with a silent whisper of defiance toward a holy God.
So I will never tell my children monsters are not real.
However, I will repeatedly tell them we do not have to fear monsters. To illustrate this point at their young age, I take a flashlight and shine it into every nook and cranny of their room. I shine it under their beds. I vanquish anything that I find under there, including the candy they are still hiding from last Halloween.
Then I sit on their beds with them and ask, “Do you think any monsters will come when Daddy is in your room?” They always answer no because everyone knows monsters only come with there are no adults around. Then I remind them that even though they cannot see me, I am still right beside them (their room shares a wall with the living room and my recliner sits next to that wall).
I do not tell my children monsters are not real for two reasons. One is illustrated by G.K. Chesterton who said, “Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tales provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.” Secondly, I do not dissuade the belief in monsters because I want them to understand that no matter what ugly, terrible, hairy creature they are facing, they have a loving father who will fight anything to keep them safe.
But I cannot protect them from all monsters. The whispering monster of sin is already in their tiny hearts. They are fallen creatures and their internal monsters are growing as fast as they are. Fortunately, they have a heavenly Father who loves them much more than I am able to. My prayer is that while they are still very young they will ask Him to come in and vanquish any monster He sees when He shines His light into every nook and cranny of their lives. I pray they understand they do not have to be afraid of the monsters within because they were defeated 2,000 years ago.
So, although my children are admittedly too young to fully understand theology, Christology, sin, repentance, and redemption, they can certainly begin to understand that sin is a monster but it is a monster that has already been defeated by our loving Father.
The other night my son asked me to check under his bed for a monster. My daughter calmly told him, “Remember, we don’t have to be scared of the monsters because Jesus is with us.”
Eventually they will learn the difference between the imaginary monsters under their beds and the very real monsters in their hearts. In the meantime, their earthly father will still be their hero who checks every shadow of the room, and their heavenly Father will check every shadow of their hearts.