“Sleep” is busy.
Dreams, now and again pleasant but usually not so much. Thoughts, the agitated kind, creep in and pile up extra misery to go with the eventual alarm clock. (How is it that we shift from childhood’s anxious anticipation of Santa to adulthood’s dreads?) Loneliness, it’s crushing pressure increased by immersion in darkness.
Sometimes I receive something else – a door that shuts on the intruders.
It might be the Lord’s Prayer, or mental wandering among the Beatitudes. Sometimes my heart and mind fill with tender thoughts of other people and their needs, and I find myself in a rich time of intercession.
I wish that I could boast in this. I would love to tell you that I keep late night vigils because I am a disciplined champion of prayer.
But these are moments that John of the Cross calls dichosa ventura – “happy chance” or, in more pious translations, “sheer grace.” They are God’s doing, not mine. They come without my effort.
Instead of raising my hands to the music of angels, I am more like Elijah, passed out from the day’s worries and exertions, only to be poked awake for a divine feeding.
The Psalmist starts out with a claim of active effort, but when all is said and done recognizes that it is God doing the heavy lifting through the night,
I think of you upon my bed, I remember you through the watches of the night
You indeed are my savior, and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.
My soul clings fast to you; your right hand upholds me.
Psalm 63:7-9 NAB
I pray this morning for all who suffer theft of rest by the world, the flesh and the devil. I pray that God will fill your soul with more than comforting thoughts and will set you to his life giving work – praising God, extolling his Word and lifting up other people – even as you sleep.