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  • Writer's pictureShelli Owen


Updated: Sep 9, 2023

“..put your hope in the Lord

both now and forevermore.”

David (Psalm 131:3)

One of my earliest memories, though somewhat foggy now, is of something that happened when I was about four years old. This is what I remember:

After a terrible nightmare, I could not get back to sleep. The essence of the bad dream would not go away. I called out for my parents, but I was afraid to call out any louder or more than I did. I knew my parents wanted me to be quiet at night so as not to awaken my two younger siblings, and that my parents didn’t like being disturbed in the middle of the night much either.

I desperately wanted to (quietly) run to my parents for their comforting presence — to (carefully) climb into bed with them. But as usual when awake in the middle of the night, I could also vividly imagine the crocodiles that must be waiting under my bed, or the dark, unknown, horrible figure that always seemed to be lurking in my closet at night.

However, on this night, fear from the lingering dream overcame everything else. I jumped out, away from my bed and raced across my room, across the hall to my parents’ room.

But instead of quickly reaching the comfort of their presence, I found their bedroom door shut and locked! I tapped softly on the door. No answer. I tapped just a little louder. No answer. I called out and tapped on the door as loud as I dared. They did not even stir.

What could I do? I was trembling with fear, trying hard not to cry out loud. I knew my parents were in there, but they weren’t answering. Silence was all around me.

By then my eyes had adjusted to the dark. I was still shaking from fear, and now I was also starting to shake from standing in the cold of the hallway between the rooms. I stood there a little longer, deliberating.

In the stillness, the Heavenly Father that my parents and others had told me about came to mind. I understood in my four-year-old way that He was supposed to be an even greater, stronger Father than my own daddy, even though we couldn’t see Him or touch Him. If He really was “there,” as all the adults I knew seemed to trust that He was, He would surely help and protect me in my moment of need.

It seemed I was being given the opportunity to decide whether to believe in Him for myself. I took the leap, choosing to believe.

And somehow, after that, I felt He was there. It then dawned on me that I had already jumped out of bed and run faster than the malicious crocodiles that I was sure were under my bed — and I had somehow gotten past the unthinkable blot hiding in my closet, without being harmed. And I found, miraculously (to a four-year-old), I was no longer afraid of there being anything in my closet or even under my bed.

I softly, but with some confidence, walked back into my room, in front of the closet, across the floor, back to the side of my bed, which I could now see had nothing under it (I even had the courage to double-check by putting my head down there to see).

Then the ultimate test came. If I really believed, I could kneel down at the side of my bed and pray. So, there at my bedside, I knelt down, and in four-year-old words began to whisper a real prayer to my “Heavenly Father…” (I had been taught the right words to use to pray to Him, but though I knew some words to say, I had never thought of this exercise as a form of communicating with “our Father in Heaven”). I wasn’t sure what words to use, except the ones I had learned, but as I was making the attempt to pray, an unspeakably sweet assurance enfolded me and the fears from my nightmare were washed away too. I was comforted like I had never been comforted before. I understood somehow that my Father in Heaven was truly there with me and watching over me.

After I had crawled back into my bed and under the covers, I marveled at what had just happened — for as long as I could stay awake — before I fell into a deep, peaceful sleep.

Though I didn’t understand much, if anything, intellectually about God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit then, I understood God’s real comfort and Presence with me very clearly.

Very shortly afterwards, as humans do, I forgot this experience in the sense that it did not remain forefront in my thoughts from then on. Yet when I look back, this is the first personal encounter I can remember between God and me.

It was a beginning in a difficult, often painful, but always wonderfully amazing spiritual journey towards God and true identity. Though it was my first conscious experience with God, and it was far from the last, I never could have even begun to imagine then the surprising rendezvous God had in store for me that would change and magnetize the entire trajectory of my life.

“On my bed I remember you;

I think of you through the watches of the night.

Because you are my help,

I sing in the shadow of your wings.

I cling to you;

your right hand upholds me.”

~ David (Psalm 63:6-8)


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