HomedotMagisReflectionsThe War of the Bedtime Stories

The War of the Bedtime Stories

girl reading - photo by Meruyert Gonullu via Pexels (blurred)

A minor religious conflict broke out during our bedtime reading not so long ago. It was unexpected—and pretty hilarious.

Once upon a time, my eldest daughter, Elianna, received from her grandparents a book entitled God Loves You, Elianna. She was about a year old, but even then, hearing her name read aloud in a story brought a grin to her face.

Not to be forgotten, our youngest daughter, Camira, received from my parents a book with her name in it shortly after her birth. This book is called, Camira, Don’t Push That Button. It is devoid of any spiritual significance, but it’s a very engaging book, and Camira’s name—as well as her face—appears throughout.

Both books are hits; both girls have books with their names in them. And, thankfully, both books are different enough that we don’t get tired of reading them. Win-win-win.


The girls know which book is theirs and, depending upon their moods, will not allow any name substitutions or additions.

This is not such a big deal with Camira’s book. After all, the concept is silly, and the girls can still lean over each other to push—or not to push—the 2-D button. There may be a bit of roughhousing, but we muddle onward.

But with the other book… Well, that’s when the minor religious conflicts erupt.

“God loves you, Elianna—and Camira,” my wife will say.

“NO! Just ME!” is the inevitable rebuttal.

“God made you special, Elianna—and Cam…”

“NO! It’s just MY book! It’s not about her.”

And so you see, this back and forth carries with it an existential weight. Our girls are literally yelling back and forth that God’s love for each child belongs only to one of them. That there can be no ground given, that even mumbling the name of a little sister is nothing short of anathema. The book clearly belongs to one person—after all, her name is in the title—and there can be no alterations.

My wife and I could barely contain our laughter as these verbal jabs were thrown across the girls’ bedroom.

“God loves both of you,” we insisted, but the girls wouldn’t have it. One refused to share; the other cast about in confusion at her apparent exclusion.

This was a funny moment in an otherwise routine array of bedtime rituals. We were able to talk a little bit about God’s radically inclusive love and how no one was beyond it. And we will inevitably have that same conversation again the next time we read that book.

But I wonder how often this seemingly trivial, comical exchange plays out in our real, day-to-day lives. How often do we lay sole claim to the love of God and refuse to make room for others? How often do we refuse even to consider that God’s love might be big enough for all of us?

Think of the importance of seeing yourself or of hearing your name spoken aloud, in light of this all-loving God. It’s quite wonderful, really. It begets that image of Jesus’ baptism at the Jordan, when God breaks through the clouds above and says, “This one here, this is my beloved. Look, there. I am so pleased.”

Now, think of the opposite: Your name is not spoken; you see no image even remotely similar to your own. And you begin to wonder: Am I beyond God’s love? Is it only this other person—this other group—that God loves? What about me?

I don’t think we have to stretch our imaginations too far to call to mind folks who may be made to feel as though they are beyond God’s love and that in God’s book, they have no name.

So let’s do this: When we see our names in God’s proverbial book, let’s eagerly add the names of others. “I am God’s beloved. And so is [insert a name].” Let’s add new images to our places of worship that reflect all of God’s people. Let’s not covet that love of God; let’s share it willingly and generously, as it has been shared with us.

My five-year-old and two-year-old are figuring out that God’s love is big enough for the both of them. I sure hope we can too.

Photo by Meruyert Gonullu on Pexels.

Eric Clayton
Eric Claytonhttps://ericclaytonwrites.com/
Eric A. Clayton is the deputy director of communications for the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. He has a BA in creative writing and international studies from Fairfield University and an MA in international media from American University. Eric writes Story Scraps on Substack. He lives in Baltimore, MD, with his wife and two daughters. Clayton is the author of Cannonball Moments: Telling Your Story, Deepening Your Faith and My Life with the Jedi: The Spirituality of Star Wars.


  1. The message is clearly understood thanks 5o the sisters. To be like Jesus is my prayer and desire.
    I was taught that the O in Joy, stood for others and I want to be more faithful to that.
    It’s been a teachable moment. TBTG 🕊️

  2. Nice little story. All wars have a small beginning. How does one nip such wars in the bud? Elianna, Camira, and their parents make it look so simple. Thanks Eric.

  3. Yes, it’s so convenient to think we matter more than anyone else, before God, but self-destructive. The moment we change our mindset and think of all the others we know, who equally share that love – what a blessing that is!


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