As I am prone to do at this 50-something, menopausal stage of my life, I awoke in the wee hours of the morning one day this week and simply could not go back to sleep. This happens so frequently now that I have made wee-morning my regular time to pray for my children and for my church family. This particular morning, however, my mind turned to other things...
For some reason, as I lay awake in the darkness, memories of other times when I had lain awake in bed, praying, came to mind. Memories I hadn't visited in ages.
I recalled one of my most comforting childhood memories: that of being tucked into bed at night by my dad or my mom.
Tired at the end of a long day of work or play, full from a good dinner and freshly bathed, I would climb into bed and burrow under the blankets. Dad would flip off the lights and come sit on the end of the bed, smelling deliciously of coffee and cigarette smoke and perhaps cowness or tractor exhaust or, if he had eaten lunch at Olympia that day, of garlic. We would talk a little bit, and then he would tell me it was time to say my bedtime prayers.
"Now I lay me down to sleep..."
I would pray, and then sometimes he would pray, too. That very simple children's prayer worked like a magic incantation, ushering me from wakefulness to the drowsy shadowland of almost-asleep.
"Amen." "Goodnight." "G'night."
I can't think of anything more comforting than slipping off to sleep with my last conscious thought being that my Father was right there with me.
* * *
And another memory came to mind...
I was a teenager, and my bed at the time was a fold-out couch in the dining room - the dining room, because it was a room the family didn't use every day and therefore had less traffic. (I am not sure, but I think maybe my regular room and bed had been given to a relative or guest who staying with us for an extended period.) At any rate, I often read my Bible in bed at the end of the day and would leave it on the arm of the couch when I turned out the lights.
Mom and Dad no longer came to tuck me in and say bedtime prayers - I was too big for that - but my heavenly Father still met with me to talk and pray before ushering me off to sleep. Sometimes, I would wake up in the middle of the night, worried about an upcoming test at school or frightened by a bad dream, and I would feel around in the dark until I found my Bible. Pulling it close to me in bed, I would be comforted knowing that Yes, God was still close, still keeping watch.
I didn't think that small black leather-bound book was a magic charm or some kind of lucky amulet; no, it was a physical reminder - something I could touch with my hands - of the invisible presence of God.
"I pray the Lord my soul to keep..."
* * *
As I lay awake that morning earlier this week, remembering these scenes from my youth, it struck me that night after night, year after year, for as long as I can remember, God has faithfully met me in the gray twilight before sleep, and in the scary darkness of my fears and anxieties, and now, in the wee-morning wakefulness of middle-age.
Every night when I burrow under the blankets, He is there and waiting to talk. When I wake up and the sky is black and the stars are as bright as ice, He is still there, awake and listening and waiting to talk.
For over fifty years - how many nights of sleep? how many nights of sleeplessness? - God has been awake and present and listening and ready to meet with me.
A passage from Psalm 121 also came to mind in the wee-dark hours that particular morning: "...he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper..." As I recalled those memories from my childhood and considered these verses from Psalms, I was brought to tears, overwhelmed by the incredible faithfulness of God.
Fifty+ years of nights for me, and He has never slumbered, never slept.
Every single night, my Father is awake, still watching, still protecting, still listening, still comforting.
All through the night.
3 weeks ago