If I Should Die

As a child I was taught the bedtime prayer: Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep, If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. You may have prayed this prayer, or a version of it, as a child. Children have been praying this bedtime rhyme for a few centuries. As a youngster, the “if I should die” part of the prayer did not bother me, I did not know anyone who had died. I did wonder about the keeping and taking of my soul. What is my soul? Where do I keep it? And why would the Lord want to take it somewhere? That was heavy theology to ponder before going to sleep at night. I discovered that this prayer was probably born out of the anguish of high infant and children mortality during times of smallpox and other plagues. 

I eventually decided that the prayer was a metaphor, like the other children’s rhymes that we learned to say or sing, like Rock-a-bye Baby in the treetop, when the wind blows the cradle will rock. When the bough breaks the cradle will fall, and down will come baby, cradle, and all. It is always sung sweetly to little children, although its imagery is terribly disconcerting. What kind of people put a baby in a cradle in the top of a tree? Later I learned that this song was probably a metaphor using bird nests and hatchlings blown away by the storms as the image. This all comes to mind today as the first of the little children are being buried in Uvalde, Texas.  How well are you sleeping these nights? Little children and all their friends and relatives in the whole county and beyond are forever traumatized, souls taken, lives broken. Robb Elementary School will be torn down to be replaced. Why do we do this to our children, over and over, decade after decade? Or maybe we should just start singing a new lullaby to our babies? Now I dress and go to school, I pray the Lord my soul to rule. If I should die inside my classroom, Lord forgive the ones who took no action.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. We must do better. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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