Lying down in green pastures
By Charles Cooper
If our girls were afraid at night, they wanted Becky. If one called out for me and I went, she would say, “Dad, get Mom.”
Once I asked, “What’s wrong with me?”
“You’re cross,” Beth replied with startling honesty.
Of course. Waking up at 2 a.m. does that.
They did not want me for comfort. They wanted me for stories.
I made them help: “What would you like the story to be about?”
Always they wanted it to be about animals or Granny, or animals and Granny.
A grownup might ask for stories about courage or peace, or something else beautiful and abstract. But with kids it’s animals and Granny. Nothing wrong with that.
I remember a few of the stories.
So, Granny was reading in her chair when she saw a spider. She took a jar and a piece of paper and she scooped the spider into the jar. She took the spider outside to eat the bugs on her roses.
When she came back and sat down in her chair, she saw another spider. She scooped it up and took it outside to eat the bugs that ate her roses.
When she got back, there was another spider, and she scooped it up and took it to her roses.
Granny thought, “I don’t want to see anymore spiders,” and she sat down in her chair and looked around and around and around and around.
“Good. No more spiders,” she thought.
Then she cried out, “Oh no! It’s a cricket.”
She scooped the cricket up into the jar and started for the door, but the cricket said, “Granny, Granny, you can take me outside, but please, please don’t take me to the roses.”
“So, where did Granny take the cricket?” Sarah asked.
“To a grassy place with lots of crickets,” I said.
“Were there spiders in the grass?”
“Yes, but they all became friends.”
The girls liked the story. It told them they would be okay. As they faded off into the backyard of dreams, a kind hand would not place them close to danger in the roses, but would carry them to green pastures, where spiders and crickets lie down together.
When I go to bed, those feelings are not strange to me. Oh Lord, you can take me where you will, but please, please, not too near the roses—not yet, anyway.
I confess that I was not always nice. One night the girls wanted to hear about Granny and Dinosaur Rex—their name for T-Rex. So, I said, Granny was sleeping in her bed when she heard a thunderous noise and felt the house tremble. She put on her robe, and as soon as she stepped out the door, this huge face dropped down from above and opened its mouth and showed its enormous, nasty teeth and the breath from its nostrils knocked Granny down.
Beth interrupted, “And then they became friends.”
No. Then Dinosaur Rex ate Granny.
I added, But Granny spoke from inside Dinosaur Rex’s belly, “What am I?”
Dinosaur Rex laughed and said, “Indigestion.”
So, Granny repeated, “What am I?”
Dinosaur Rex said, “A human being.”
Granny said, “So, if I am here, then you cannot be here.”
And the power of Granny’s reasonable words made Dinosaur Rex disappear into the long ago, and Granny went back to bed.
I hope that story is about courage in the valley of the shadow, and the first story about peace in green pastures, though my intention at the start was just to rattle Granny and a spider, and Granny and a T-Rex, around in my head and see how they shook out. That’s what my children asked me to do.
I believe through telling a story—and even more, living a story—without knowing fully the outcome, we better understand courage and peace, whether we walk in the valley of the shadow or lie down in green pastures.
The Rev. Cooper is a retired elder in the Arkansas Conference. Email: email@example.com.