Monday, May 11, 2015

In the middle of the night

It could have been the sound of the air conditioner cycling on, or our next door neighbor's sprinkler clicking against the metal fence, or any number of barely imperceptible possibilities.  But quite suddenly last night in the darkness, I came up to the surface, no longer asleep.

I often wake before dawn and take advantage of the early morning quiet to read, think, and write. As I turned over to check the time, it was far too early even for that.  The numbers 2.42 am on the face of the digital clock just seemed to mock me. I turned over and attempted to go back to sleep to no avail. The minutes slugged by like so many tired runners at the back of a race.  I felt like one of them.  

I tried my trusty right side, I tried my left side, I snuggled on my stomach with my feet hanging off the end of the bed, that which is usually a sure-fire way to lull me back to sleepy-land.  Still the numbers on the clock flowed by like a lazy river.

I turned on my back and tried the covers on, and then, the covers off.  I even tried reciting Psalm 23 really really slowly.  I chuckled when I came to the part, "He makes me lie down in green pastures."  My brain was still on hyper-speed.  I was like a toddler with too much sugar in her system.

In the classic children's book Madeleine is one of my favorite lines, "And in the middle of the night, Miss Clavel turned on the light, and said, "Something is not right."

In past episodes of not sleeping, I have been distracted by anxieties and fears and the totally annoying impulse of how to fix a situation outside of my control.

But last night, there appeared a different urgency in my 3 am alertness. What was keeping me awake?  I did not turn on the light like Miss Clavel, but I listened.  For just a moment, I ceased my struggle to find the "just right" position to return to sleep, and I listened.  Not for the creaking of a dark and empty house, a possible intruder or an imaginary ravenous lion under my bed, but for God.  Not posing a desperate plea for sleep, but holding forth a question, "What, God?" Not "WHY AM I STILL AWAKE?" But, "What for?"

And slowly, the names of loved ones came into my mind, like a crowd already standing in line, people whom I had been praying for in desperate situations, sweet friends and acquaintances I hadn't thought about in a long time, fellow believers whom I do not know who are suffering persecution, and even those who are persecuting them that they would come to know God.

The names, the faces, the situations, scrolled through my thoughts like the credits at the end of a movie.  For some, I lingered a little longer, knowing that they are facing dismay in a hundred different sizes.  I must have hit the right name somewhere in the lineup, because at one point shortly after 4.44, I could feel sleep begin to cover me like a warm silent wave at the beach.

On mornings after a short night like that, I repeat the prayer of my sweet friend Nancy, "LORD, make it enough."

My first cup of coffee was still more than half-full when, during the course of a phone call, I heard about someone I had prayed for just a few hours prior.

"That is why I woke you up," I felt like God saying to me.  I needed to pray, right then and there.  If I had waited until morning, it probably would not have even occurred to me.

And oh, what I would have missed.  Not that things changed because I prayed, but God allowed me to join Him in whatever it is He is doing. It is not that God needs me, but I clearly need Him.

In his book Prayer, author and pastor Timothy Keller states, "Through prayer, which brings heaven into the ordinary, we see the world differently, even in the most menial and trivial daily tasks.  Prayer changes us."

...and one of His disciples said to Him,
        "Lord, teach us to pray."

                                Luke 11.1

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