Im not sleeping through the night ...
For the past three weeks, Ive found myself waking up at 3 oclock in the morning. Why this happens, I havent a clue. I dont set my alarm clock to awaken me at this ungodly hour. I actually enjoy completing my dreams. Maybe its the change of season. Who knows why I stop sleeping?
After I awake, I spend an hour or so going in and out of sleep. Unable to return to dreamland, I finally get out of bed and, while I must say that being an early riser never appealed to me before, Ive learned how to love wandering around the parsonage early in the morning, anticipating the day ahead. It gives me time to ponder, asking, Whats in store for me today? Will I finally discover the meaning of life, or will I help someone else discover meaning in their life? Will love for my neighbor become easier today than ever before? Who knows, might an angel or two visit me, making my day both exciting and a bit scary? When you wake up at 3 oclock in the morning, contemplating the days possibilities becomes exciting.
Like cooking a fresh egg, I can scramble my day, seasoning it with a little bit of salt, pepper and a tad of cumin. Or, if I choose, I can baste my day in butter and chicken broth. How about a day thats over easy, promising the rich flavor of a creamy yolk? On the other hand, why not make my day an omelet, filled with sautéed onions, mushrooms and pungent cheese. So many options await.
Speaking biblically, the middle of the night always hosted great events, like Jacob wrestling with God until the dawn. It was nighttime when the Angel of Death passed through the land of Egypt, destroying all its first born, except those of the Hebrews, who smeared the blood of a sacrificial lamb on their door posts. It was at night when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, asking God to take his cup of woe from him. As for me, Im a much simpler person: I merely spend my early morning imagining what might be ahead.
On the other hand, I could do what many of us do: I could take a sedating antihistamine to help me go back to sleep for an additional three- or four-hour rest. Then I could awaken at a more appropriate hour, although somewhat groggy. Then, like my friends, I would get out of bed, starting my day in dire need of potent coffee, unable to function until that joyous wave of caffeine washed through my senses. And by noon, Id emerge from my fog, realizing that Id finished half my work day, needing to suffer only a few more hours before returning home to watch television until sleep overtakes me again, restarting my cycle of needing sleep aids and stimulants to make it through my day.
Given that option, Id rather wake up at 3 oclock in the morning, readying myself for the day with my entire array of abilities alert, ready to pounce, like a cat, upon whatever desperately tries to hide itself from me. I like entering my day filled with keenness, not knowing when or from where my quarry might emerge, but knowing that Im ready for the chase.
This is how I envision our God alert, awake and aware. Like mythical dragons of lore, God never sleeps. Slumber cant exist as an option when youre God. Too many human needs and expectations make a deitys chances to dream impossible. And sometimes when I awake at 3 oclock in the morning, I feel guilty that I slept at all, considering how God remained vigilant through the night unlike myself. In some religious orders, Gods faithful followers practice vigilance, arising every few hours through the night and early morning to offer their thanks to God; and, for the first time in my life, perhaps I understand why getting up early carries meaning, because our God lovingly watches over us not only every second of every day, but also every second of every night.
I wonder how long this nocturnal rite of passage may continue; and, while I fantasize about eventually getting a full nights rest, I confess that being awake while the rest of Cortez, Colorado, snoozes delights me in the same way that an owl finds satisfaction expectantly peering out into the darkness with a kind of awe and wonder. When I look out into the night and early morning sky, I feel that awe and wonder as well as a deep sense of curiosity, wondering how we and our God might encounter one another this day. I suspect that for some, an encounter with God today will go virtually unnoticed. But, for others, Gods earnest desire to become a part of someones life might find a warm welcome, changing that persons life forever. And so tonight, as I look out upon Cortez at 3 oclock in the morning, I feel a chill run down my spine as I envision and ponder what creative prospects and inviting opportunities God intends for you and me.
Pastor Tom recently came from Christ United Methodist Church in Salt Lake City, Utah to Cortez, where he pastors First United Methodist Church. Hes a graduate of Eden Theological Seminary and Johns Hopkins University.
Ask Pastor Tom: If you ever have any questions about biblical history, languages, or stories, feel free to call Pastor Tom at the First United Methodist Church. He can give you ideas about where you can start researching your questions: 565-3002.