My father had the gift.
A man I work with has it. And sometimes I wonder if they realize how fortunate they are? The remarkable ability to put one’s head down on a pillow and drift into a refreshing sleep. Everything I read today emphasizes the need for slumber. Physicians describe how we are sleep deprived and this lack is prematurely aging us, causing us to make mistakes at work and be short tempered with our families and colleagues. I agree with these experts and experience the benefits when I have good rest and the physical limitations when ensnared by insomnia. And I would go so far as to claim that I have read a good number of books and articles offering tips and solutions for those of us who lay awake at night tossing and fretting. These “tips” include drinking warm water throughout the day, eating only certain foods, restricting oneself to a rigid schedule of rising and getting into bed. These Sleep Sages recommend all organic sheeting, lavender candles and calcium tablets.
Truthfully, I have adopted some of these practices and sometimes experience the advantages of this collective wisdom and often not. It can be terrifying to awaken in the middle of the night with the realization that a full and demanding day awaits – a day in which one needs a full night of rest in order to function with equilibrium. We know that in that moment turning on the television, activating the iPad, reaching for the library book is deadly. These distractions will only enhance alertness. So why not have a nocturnal conversation with God? Use this quiet, sacred time as a moment to engage the Holy? Rather than surrender to panic and fear, turn your attention to the God of our lives who waits for any opportunity to engage us.
Honestly, in that moment we are at our most vulnerable, the usual psychological and emotional shields are down. It is an advantageous time to speak the truth of who we really are and what we really need. It’s in those quiet, focused moments that it becomes possible to hear that soft, whispering sound of God’s voice. Just take a breath. Gaze into the darkness and refocus your attention upon the resonate presence of the Creator. Tell God what has awakened you, what haunts you; describe the specifics of your deepest desire. Keep monitoring your breath and relax into the knowledge that you are loved and you are not alone…not even in the middle of the night.A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord – but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake – but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was a fire – but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. The Book of Kings “I’ve always envied people who sleep easily. Their brains must be cleaner, the floorboards of the skull well swept, all the little monsters closed up in a steamer trunk at the foot of the bed.” David Benioff, City of Thieves