Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

Ain't life wonderful while canoeing on the Sunflower River in Clarksdale, MS

Ain’t life wonderful while canoeing on the Sunflower River in Clarksdale, MS

By Pontificus Minimus
(Clarksdale, Mississippi) 

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]. Bless Momma and Daddy, Lou and Frank, Granny and Mammy, Vester and Nettie, John McKee, and everybody I love, and make me a sweet boy, in Jesus’ name, Amen!

Now, has Pontificus Minimus made “hisself” vulnerable or what? What!

The reason the “bridge-builder of low estate” has put “If I should die before…” in parentheses is because he didn’t like saying that part as a child. Pontificus didn’t want to die, so he just conveniently left it out of his nighttime rituals. Courting or even talking about death seemed a bit macabre to him in his youth. Now those thoughts are never far off. Alas, they are nigh upon him.

I have observed in older friends, and even the few who are actually younger than I, a propensity to grasp and root around in our memory and the memory of others for ditties and remembrances of our once-possessed childlike innocence. The closer the oft-rushed twilight looms–means death for those who are not as painfully whimsical as Pontificus–the more we seem to reach back for “innocence lost” or the memory–real or imagined–of sweeter, simpler times.

When Pontificus gets “eat up” with the cares, trials, monetary problems, and busyness of modern living, he often reverts to that prayer without cognition kicking in.

Daddy, Granny, Mammy, Vester, and Nettie are gone, and sadly their memories fade to a darker dusk with each passing day, but in my trials and stresses and the muscle/mental memory of “Now I lay me down to sleep…” emoting from said stressors, those who have gone before me become translucently alive once again.

They are reconfigured without spot or blemish, the funny pithy sayings and the quirky, wry grins, remain. The faults, weaknesses, and idiosyncrasies that drove me “bonkers” no longer hold court in my mind or heart; I am generally left with fond feelings, grand memories, and a Christlike memory marbled with forgiveness and thoughts filled with esteem-past.

In God’s economy and in ours, the “simpler the better” seems to carry more import with the one able to dispense grace and assistance. My simple, heartfelt prayers and one-word utterances and supplications just might move God more quickly on my behalf and the behalf of those I have on my heart, than do my lengthy prayers and orations, which seem to draw more attention to myself than to the one I am making supplicating for.

Just as when one of my precious children calls out, “Daddy!” Nothing else really need be said! One word does it!

Now, Pontificus is one of God’s most fallen creatures, but he does love Him–though often poorly and selfishly. And Pontificus is given to baneful and bawdy musings, but he does know where God lives, and when he has been out-of-fellowship with the Creator he does find the simplest prayer or request is often the most efficacious.

Pontificus realizes the older he gets just how many children do not have the opportunity to grow up within innocent environs. What a tragedy that their innocence is never lost, as it was never present.

For those of us who were fortunate enough to have lived innocently for a season, it is imperative for our moral, spiritual, emotional, and mental health and that of others for us to strive to be childlike in our affections and behavior.

For those who never experienced the security of an innocent upbringing, it is likewise imperative that we who did experience one make sure we model the benefits of it to those whom life has chewed on more than usual.

Life is hard and can make us hard; innocence makes us tender and soft. Let’s strive for innocence.

The last line of the prayer is a request that God make Pontificus a sweet boy. This addition was likely at the request of his mother, but what a fine addition it was.

Pontificus likely wants to think of himself as a warrior-king from feudal times, but he is at his best to God and others when he retains an often-elusive sweetness, which holds others in high esteem, and one in which he is servant-like and edification-oriented, instead of selfishly and insecurely attempting to crush with words and actions those who have not done as he thought they should have.

Sweet boys might finish last with the ladies and in life’s competitions, but they are more likely to be thought of fondly, spend eternity with He who formed us and loves us, and surely will leave a wider-swath of Godly influence once the dusk becomes their home!

So, regardless of how my soul is taken, I just want the Lord to take it and for it to be a “sweet boy’s” soul! Amen!

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  1. D.J. Green says:

    In the Sunset Circle days our parents would get together and play cards late into the night. Most of us kids would end up going to sleep hours before they finished so many times we would say our prayers together. We would bless everyone we could think of until our list was so long we had to shorten it to family (and of course John Mckee). That’s why we said and “everybody I love). Of course, the reason for the long list was our manipulative way of staying up as late as possible! In those days there were 6 girls and you so we said “Help me to be a good girl” and you said “Help me to be a sweet boy” . It was your Mama’s suggestion in fact she suggested it quite regularly but always in a loving way! I am fairly sure the “good girl” part was directed at me. Anyway, I just wanted to add my “2 cents”. Love, DJG

  2. Incredible memory and memories DJG! Thanks for sharing! WOW, great remembrance and sad all at the same time! Where did time and innocence go? Thank you for your two cents! 🙂

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