Sunday, February 24, 2013

The watches

I'm not sure anyone should ever publish a post written at three in the morning but if you're reading this, here I am and here it is. And who knows what shall come of it?

Insomnia. The curse of the aging. Or maybe the blessing, if I can stretch myself like a rubber band to think about it so. Tonight (or this morning) I attempt it.
The Psalmist says, "I will think of thee through the watches of the night." The watches. Standing like a sentinel when the world is dark, the loved are sleeping and all one has is one's thoughts. My thoughts often skip like stones across a pond from thought to another, never settling. The most ridiculous thoughts, really: trying to remember the phone numbers of all my high school friends. The birthdates of all my cousins. Reciting the presidents in order: I usually get stuck after Ulysses S. Grant--was it Chester Allen Arthur? Benjamin Harrison? Then James Garfield who was assassinated? Oh gosh, and there I go, right here, right now, fixated on something entirely unimportant at 3 AM.

What I seldom do is get out of bed, which sleepologists (a word I just made up) tell you is absolutely wrong. Research says a person should get right up and sit in their cold house until they're sleepy, and then go to sleep. And the same research says a person shouldn't read books in bed. When the sleepologist I went to told me about no reading, I didn't go back. If there's one thing I can't abide, it's not reading in bed (and yes, I DO know that's a double negative). I simply MUST read in bed. The last thing I do is read, then write, then read some more. And then pray.

But...then I stop. Stop praying, I mean. And that's where these encouraging words from the Psalms come in. It's possible, of course, that they were written by a man standing on the ramparts, guarding the city. Or standing at the edge of the tents, while the Kingdom slept in tents. But I don't need an advanced degree to guess that such men would have been less likely to have the education necessary to write such words (though certainly some had enough poetry in their souls to express them).  No, these words were written by a person who didn't have such a job. He wasn't required to stay awake by a human master.

Perhaps by a Heavenly One at times. Jesus took three of his disciples with Him, asked them to keep watch with Him...and not one of them could do it. Even for us insomniacs, staying awake in obedience is no easy matter. But oh, how they must have looked back and wanted a 'do-over!'

My best 3:30 AM guess, then, is that the Psalmist struggled with sleeplessness. At least now and then. And rather than simply endure it, he prayed it into a sweet time. The sweetest. Communion with God through the watches. When all is quiet and nothing is there to distract (like a computer where he could write about this communion, rather than just being with God).

So I go now. To be with Him. Yes, I will get back into my warm bed because my fingers are frozen at the ends of my hands. But until I drift away, I will drift into Presence. His full and Holy Presence. Or allow that Presence to be the what the watches are. Yes, that's it--the watches of night becoming about His Presence.

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