Well, you can never be certain what it is that wakes you up in the middle of the night. I always chuckle a bit when I hear that someone “slept like a baby,” since that’s best interpreted as waking up every two hours, hungry, crying and having to either go to the bathroom, or have your diaper changed. Also, pretty helpless…
So, last night, we treated ourselves and ordered in supper. It came from one of those “buffalo wings” restaurants, and according to son Adam, it promised to be very tasty. After perusing the menu, I settled on having a “buffalo chicken” sandwich, medium-hot, with cole slaw on the side. It sounded good when I ordered it, and it looked good when it came, and it tasted good when I ate it. This actually was an unusual experience, since most of the “ordered-in” meals as of late have been terribly disappointing, at least for me - even the pizza has been a bit off the mark. Anyway, I munched down the sandwich, and declared the meal a success.
I went to bed around 10pm, and indeed, slept more like a log than a baby, but at 3am, for some reason, I awoke. Trying to figure out why I was awake when the rest of the non-nocturnal world was sleeping sound in their beds, with sugar plums and such… I then realized that the buffalo chicken sandwich had decided to take revenge on my digestive system. No reason for that – I had done nothing to offend it that I could recall, but to be discreet, nature called, and my body answered.
After that interlude, instead of crawling back to bed, I decided to spend the last three hours of the night in the recliner in my office. It’s usually comfortable, and very suitable for an afternoon nap, but last night, it failed me.
I closed my eyes, tried to get comfortable, and then opened them 10 minutes later. I thought it was kind of stuffy in the room, so I turned the ceiling fan on a little faster, grabbed the blanket, and once again, attempted to find sleep. It was about that time that a small tawny-colored cat came moseying in to the office. Remember that nocturnal stuff? Well, that’s Hermes – he’s a night roamer, and when he heard me wiggling and adjusting to the chair, he saw that as a invitation for us to spend some quality time. With meows and purrs, he jumped up onto the arm of the chair, dug around for a while, and then walked across my internal organs a few times, just to ensure I would be awake. After about 15 minutes, he then hopped down, went into the living room, and began his late-night concert of meowing in hopes of waking the entire house to an early start.
3:30am, and I was wide awake. You know that feeling when you wake up at night, but with a tiny little bit of effort, you find yourself drifting back into a delicious dream-filled state? Not last night. I tried almost everything – adjust the pillow, lift the footrest, put the foot rest down, take the covers off, put them on – it was really becoming one of “those” nights, that are fairly rare in my retirement.
So, all alone, I began to ponder what the heck was keeping me from sleeping. Besides my friend, Mr. Buffalo Chicken, I did begin to recount in my mind a number of stresses that had settled on our home recently. Some of them you have already heard about: Cheri’s mom has terminal cancer, and the whole ballet, it seems, of trying to find the best way to care for her had torn Cheri up quite a bit, and that means it tears me up too. Cheri’s job is always stressful, and I find myself helpless in even trying to offer up suggestions – the most I can do is listen, which is like eating a bowl of lima beans. Even though there are good possibilities of Aaron being offered a position as a professor, it’s 18 hours away, and no one is there that he knows. His brother is considering moving and working remotely from his job, but that’s also an investment, and Kentucky is not idea – he wishes Aaron would have been offered somewhere in like Texas, or eastern Tennessee, so that decision is not at all certain.
I also care deeply about our country, and frankly, it’s a bit messy right now, between squabbling and outright fights between political parties, and threats of lockdowns, and having to put the stupid masks on again – the best word I can find to describe it is a quagmire, with no clear path through the fire swamp.
All of those things rattled around in my mind – I’m sure you have your own long list of “uneasys” that even haunt you from time to time. So, I reclined there for a while, just indulging myself in cataloging all the situations that were attempting to keep me uneasy myself, as well as keeping me awake on an early Tuesday morning.
As I passed 4am, I’m ashamed to say only then did it come to me. Very little in all of that anxiety-filling goulash do I have any control over. I just don’t. Sure, I can tweak things a little, and offer all sorts of recommendations that often are not heard, or followed, which only adds to the anxiety, or I can do something else. And I did something else. After all the sleepless in Fargo settings, God reminded me that I could pray. It was almost as clear as that – as if God spoke deep in the middle of my brain, and said, “Well? Are you ready to let this all go yet? Do you feel like talking with Me about this, or would you just like to fret away until the dawn?”
And so we talked – finally. Actually, I did all the talking, and trusted that God, at least at this time, was doing the listening. I peeled off one by one each of the brain and heart-shaking items that have filled my life. Now, I am usually pretty good at giving the advice to people who are worrying, to take it to God, and then leave the issues there, for God to care for, and to offer hope for what’s ahead. It was just finally time for me to do the same thing.
Now, I wish I could report that after that conversation with God, I drifted off to deep and peaceful sleep… actually, it was more waking up every fifteen minutes, adjusting everything, and then going back to sleep – for another fifteen minutes. Now, I’m not beyond believing that Mr. Buffalo Chicken had something to do with it, and sometimes, some nights are less restorative than others, at least as far as sleep goes.
What was restored early this morning, however, was God’s authority over my life. Instead of my feverish striving to make it all right, all by myself, at least for this morning, I was able to just let it go. I was reminded, not that I am the boss of the world, and therefore responsible for everything that happens, but instead, that I am a cherished child of the One who truly is the Boss, who can make all things new, and help us through those dark valleys, those dry bones, and lead us to the still waters.
My hope and dream for you is that you would experience that same realization as you struggle in your own life, whatever the struggles appear to be. We have a God who is mighty, and powerfully loving, and so it’s good to ask – why worry, when you can pray?
May today be a day of light and hope for you, and one in which you also experience the incredible presence of God, lifting you beyond the mess, and helping you to find a peaceful heart.
Word of the day: tenable. Simple word, but profound. Pronounced TEN-uh-bull. The word stretches back to the Latin root, tenere, which is one of those first verbs you learn – “to hold, or keep.” When something is “able’ to be held or kept, it is capable of being maintained or held on to even when challenged about it. Based usually on sound reasoning, or something well-founded or solid, when we act out of a tenable foundation, what we do just seems to make sense, even if others have trouble “holding on” to that truth.
Our faith should always be tenable – not necessarily existing because we can prove everything, but at least that it is a force that we hold on to, that gives us a firm footing in our world and in our lives.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.