I have an unabashed love affair with children’s books. One of my favorite genres, I adore rich illustrations, flowing language, and whimsy. Words evoke emotions, and stir the imagination. I love when authors paint masterful imagery amid simplicity. A story well told is a fresh spring breeze.
Several nights ago I awoke to a peculiar though instantly recognizable sound. I listened in the stupor of the halfasleep, not sure I hadn’t merely dreamt it. There it was again, and I smiled at the unmistakable call of an owl. No joke. Despite my residential neighborhood, an owl must have been right outside my window! I’m not sure I’ve ever heard an owl in the wild before.
One of my favorite picture books sprang to mind.
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen is the story of a little girl who goes “owling” with her Father. She’s waited her whole life for the privilege, and the night spreads before her quiet and mysterious.
“It was late one winter night, long past my bedtime, when Pa and I went owling. There was no wind, The trees stood still as giant statues. And the moon was so bright the sky seemed to shine. Somewhere behind us a train whistle blew, long and low, like a sad, sad song.”
And so, we’re whisked along through eyes filled with wonder.
“I didn’t ask what kinds of things hide behind black trees in the middle of the night. When you go owling, you have to be brave.”
How vividly I imagine a little girl clomping through the snow, trusting her strong father to lead the way. Perhaps she is a little nervous, a bit afraid of things that hide in the night.
But “when you go owling, you have to be brave.”
Once I asked my kindergarten students, “Why was the little girl brave?”
Without hesitation and with full confidence, a small voice eagerly replied, “Because her Dad was there.”
What a gentle reminder of a bigger Father! As with any great story, Owl Moon points to the biggest story. Why do we love heroes? And redemption? And family? And good versus evil?
We long for the ultimate Hero. We long for the ultimate Father.
The little girl was not afraid because he was brave. She trusted her father. He was enough to face the “kinds of things that hide behind black trees.” He protected. And she was safe to enjoy the beauty of the night rather than fear the unknown.
How clearly the gospel rings from the pages of a simple children’s story!
I have a Redeemer who protects, provides, and is infinitely brave. I’ve been adopted, and I have a Father who loves me and makes me dwell in safety.
He knows the unknowns.
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” Isaiah 26:3
But I don't always trust my Father perfectly. Sometimes I fear the things that hide behind black trees. I forget to enjoy His presence. I forget to marvel at the adventure.
But He remains the same. Strong. Trustworthy. Brave.
Jesus trusted, therefore I can trust.
Jesus was brave, therefore I am brave.
“I knew then I could talk, I could even laugh out loud. But I was a shadow as we walked home. When you go owling you don’t need words or warm, or anything but hope."
The owl continued his song in the night, and I drifted back to sleep -- safe, warm, and protected.
by Ami Atkins