late night meetings
A few years back, I went through an extended period of insomnia. Several times a week, I'd wake between 2:00 and 3:30 a.m. The realization that I'd lost my grip on unconsciousness never failed to irritate me. I fought it as best as I could. I'd keep one eye closed as I navigated my way across our bedroom and into the bathroom, hoping to fool the other eye into believing we were still asleep. It rarely worked. I'd stumble back to bed, resume my best falling-to-sleep position, and lay there for long minutes, or an hour, or two--wondering what in the world was wrong with me that I couldn't sleep through the night.
But it occurred to me, one night, that maybe I wasn't waking up at all. Maybe I was being awakened.
"Is it You, Lord?" I asked. "Are You waking me?"
I tried to come up with a reason why God would want to interrupt my r.e.m. sleep. After rejecting "practical joke" and "health sabotage," I was left with the only reasonable conclusion: He missed me. Perhaps we hadn't had enough "us" time during the day, and He waited until dark to get me alone.
I decided I'd go with that. "Lord, from now on, if I wake in the middle of the night ... I'll know it's You."
He took me up on that offer.
During this time, we gave away our mobile home and moved into a teeny travel trailer, which was to be our dwelling for the six months it would take to build our new house. It wasn't the ideal situation for middle-of-the-night rousings, but I long ago gave up arguing with God. If He wanted me to ease myself inch by slow inch across Dave's snoring body and grope around in the darkness for my robe and slippers, then so be it.
I took to keeping a square of tin foil near the dining table so I could mold it around the plastic light cover, allowing only a small, directed beam of light to leak downward and onto the pages of my Bible. Somewhere deep, I've clutched the sounds of my sleeping family, a slumbering earth, and the gathering storm of water heating in my tea kettle. All that noise, collectively, created the most peaceful silence I've known.
I'd sip my cocoa and read, and listen. God never failed to speak to me in those quiet hours. Sometimes He'd speak to a specific need in my life; most nights He just told me He loved me. We doubtful beings never stop needing that reminder, and He knows that.
I learned a great deal about the heart of God in those late night meetings--and all the meetings since.
He woke me last night at 3:12. This time, He wanted to discuss three specific topics. Two are private--do you assume I share everything with you?--but I'll tell you the third. He wanted to talk about the Navy. And no, I'm not thinking of enlisting. Oddly, they're not recruiting scarf-knitting, herb-gardening, bread-baking 44-year old sailors these days. But it looks like I'm going aboard, nonetheless.
I'm about to get a "yes" answer to a four-year old request. Early in 2001, after touring the USS Lincoln (which floats off-shore about twenty minutes from here) and talking briefly with two or three female sailors, I left with a strong desire to come back and teach a women's Bible study. I felt such an urgency to do this that I immediately began gathering information. I talked first to the half-dozen enlisted men and women in our fellowship, but none could direct me as to how to set things in motion. So I checked the website and collected a few names and numbers. Before I could make a single call, though, the door slammed right in my face. 9-11 happened. And understandably, security on the Navy base ramped up to where civilians couldn't even walk across the parking lot, let alone onto the ship. We'd drive by the gates and stare at the armed soldier atop a tank, who would clutch his weapon and stare back at us. I had to let go of my plan.
But this is four years later. The tank is gone; the urgency is back. And so I approached two of our Navy men at church and asked them both what I should do. One of them, Matt, took matters into his hands and spoke directly with the chaplain, who latched right onto the idea and asked Matt to pass on his cell phone number.
I didn't call right away. Oh, I jumped up and down and clapped my hands and squealed a bit, but when the dust settled, so did my enthusiasm. Logic began to taunt me. What are you thinking? it whispered. Women's ministry is starting up again ... you have a 4-book proposal due in September ... speaking engagements loom. How can you possibly add another weekly commitment to your schedule?
So I waited. I waited all day, even knowing the chaplain expected my call. And all day, my heart felt like a brick inside my chest.
And then, last night, God tapped my shoulder and said, I'm here. I mostly listened, at first, and simply enjoyed the knowledge of His presence. But then He brought the Navy to mind, and I became conscious of that brick again.
"Lord, is this a check from You, or just the squirming of my flesh?" I asked. And then I asked Him to see this opportunity from His perspective. I wanted to know His heart on the subject, not mine.
He lifted the brick. I felt the weight leave me, and felt joy slip in to replace the empty spot. God paraded a steady stream of thought past my mind; I remembered Paul, who taught all night, revived a dead man who had fallen out the window (during Paul's teaching, no less), talked with that same man till morning, and then walked all day to his next destination. I remembered Jesus retreating from the crowd because He was so tired, but then returning to meet their needs because compassion compelled Him past that exhaustion. I saw a circle of young women waiting to be fed from God's Word, and realized that at any moment, those women--and my chance to know them--could sail away. And I realized that I'll have all of eternity to rest, and that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
So today, I'm making a phone call. And if all goes well, I'll be walking the plank (in the right direction) sometime in the next month or so.
If you ask me, it's about time.
I was asleep but my heart was awake. A voice! My beloved was knocking ... --Song 5:2 NASU