Goodnight, Goodnight, Sweetheart
Updated: Apr 28, 2022
Through the door, I heard a song being sung to our one-month-olds, Anders and Linnea. Since arriving home from the NICU the week prior, I had heard Rachel singing that song to the twins when she laid them down for their nap. “It’s a song that my camp counselor used to sing over all of us in the cabin,” Rachel said when I asked her where the song came from.
Now, I sing that song to our kids every time I lay them down to sleep, including early yesterday morning when my son needed a diaper change.
A few months ago, as Rachel and I were talking about the goodnight song, we wondered where it originated. We knew it was not a song written by the camp counselor in the mid-90s. I was surprised when the Google results took me to a song by the Grateful Dead that was first sung in the late-’60s at the end of their concerts.
Check out the Grateful Dead version here, from a performance in 1989.
The lyrics were a bit different - and devoted fans of the Grateful Dead mentioned that the band sometimes varied the lyrics from performance to performance. Overall though, the song was essentially the same one that we have been singing over our kids.
“Lay down my dear brothers, lay down and take your rest
Oh won't you lay your head upon your saviour's breast
I love you, oh but Jesus loves you the best
And I bid you goodnight, goodnight, goodnight
And I bid you goodnight, goodnight, goodnight
And I bid you goodnight, goodnight, goodnight”
As we read more about the song, we learned that the Grateful Dead didn’t write it but had adapted it from another group, who adapted it from a traditional folk song from the Bahamas that was sung as a casket was being lowered into the ground.
Fitting. Whether it is at the end of a night or at the end of a life, being reminded of the ever-surpassing, neverending, forever love of Jesus is essential.
While I sang these words over Anders and Linnea, my heart and mind would pray that they knew that Rachel and I loved them. More importantly, we wanted them to know that they were loved best by Jesus. In my mind, I was thinking over the course of their growth and development, the goodnight song was reinforcing the truth that they would eventually learn about Jesus’ love for them. I always thought the truth of Jesus' love would be important for them in the future, sometime down the road.
After Anders died, the “down the road” eventual need for the love of Jesus immediately became an urgency to tell Linnea about the depth of Christ’s love every day. When I laid Linnea down, I was no longer thinking that someday she should know the depth of love, instead, I knew that she needed to hear about His love every day.
After Anders died, I started to place more emphasis on the phrase Jesus loves you best.
Slowing down and being deliberate about each of those words | Jesus loves you best | has transformed how I think about Jesus’ love as well.
When Elias entered the picture, even as a little baby, I would hold him and talk to him about Jesus the Savior.
We try to remain intentional and talk about God as much as we can with our kids. Singing God’s love over our kids every night is one of the times we can continually share the truth of Jesus. Rachel and I have sung those words over our children hundreds of times, and it has continued to remind us what we are hoping they are always reminded of - Jesus really does love you best.
Jesus, in John 15:9, shared with His followers - “As the Father has loved me, so I love you. Abide in my love.” The love that God has for Jesus is the same love that Jesus has for us. How wonderful that news is! He continued to teach his disciples by sharing the ultimate example of love. He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
Jesus knew that in less than 24 hours He was going to hang on the cross and die a death He didn’t deserve for the very people that placed Him on the cross. He was going to lay down His life for His friends. The Good News doesn’t stop there. Jesus didn’t die only for those that followed Him at the time. He didn’t just die for those that heard the sermon in the upper room during that Last Supper. He died for all of those that were not yet born and would turn and follow Him. Jesus died for me. He died for my neighbor.
And Jesus died for you.
In a few days, we will celebrate the birth of Jesus - heaven’s humble entry to earth. Immanuel - God with us. Jesus gave up the comforts of heaven for the trials and troubles of earth because He loved you that much. He lived a life on earth, fully man, experiencing the good things and the difficult ones. He wept when his friend died. He cried out to God to take the burden of the cross from Him - but it was always within the will of God the Father.
So He climbed the hill of Calvary and endured the cross. He suffered and died for my sins, your sins, and the sins of the entire world.
That’s the love I want Linnea and Elias to think about when Rachel and I lay them down to bed each night. Jesus’ love - a love that is greater than the love that either of us could ever give them.
If you don’t know that Jesus loves you in this way, please reach out. Send me a message on Facebook or Instagram. Email me. Call. Text. There is nothing more important to me than for all of the nations to hear of the love God has for each and every one of you.