A Still, Small Voice

A Still, Small Voice

My soul yearns for you in the night,
yes my spirit within me keeps vigil for you;
when your judgment dawns upon the earth,
the world’s inhabitants learn justice.

O Lord, you mete out peace to us,
for it is you who have accomplished all we have done.

When God called Samuel in the night, even the priest Eli did not at first recognize what was happening. Sometimes it takes a few repetitions before God gets our attention. The more we resist his voice calling in the night, the more sleep we lose.

Last night I finally stopped grumbling about my insomnia and started praying. In the dark, in the silence, God finally had my attention. Or rather, I finally opened my heart and made room for him to enter in.

I woke up a little after 2, after about five hours of sleep. As I lay in bed, chasing sleep, my mind was awake and churning. I was still working on a comment I wanted to write in response to a blog post I read the other day that had really bugged me. And I know myself well enough to recognize that when I get into that writerly mode, sometimes the best thing to do it give in to it. So after stewing for a while, I got up and headed to my computer, opened up a blank text document and began typing away. It was almost 3 by the time I finished writing all I had to say and I opened up my Liturgy of the Hours and prayed the short Night Prayer. Then I drank a glass of milk and ate a couple of squares of chocolate and headed back to bed.

But still I couldn’t sleep. A few more corrections to the comment I’d drafted bobbed around in my head. I got up again, typed them out. Then dug out a rosary from the diaper bag and headed back to the bedroom. I gave up. Ok, I said, if I’m going to be awake I might as well spend the time in prayer.

After all the office of night prayer says: “Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake, watch over us as we sleep, that awake we may keep watch with Christ and asleep rest in his peace.” if I’m going to be awake maybe I should keep watch with Christ. As Father Stan reminded me on Saturday, John Paul II said: “Don’t let your suffering go to waste.” If I’m going to suffer from insomnia, I should not let that suffering be pointless. And as Hallie reminded me recently, the Lord needs prayer warriors at all hours of the night. Tonight he’s calling me to be wakeful, to fight the good fight with him. I’ll let him worry about how I’m going to get through the rest of the day.

So clutching the rose-scented rosary beads that my sister brought back from Rome, the ones with the crucifix I love that is modeled after John Paul II’s crozier, I began to pray the sorrowful mysteries. Beginning with the agony in the garden.

Christ asked his followers to keep watch with him and they all fell asleep. Here I was, sleepless. Perhaps called to keep watch, to accompany someone’s suffering? I thought of the sick, those sleepless because of worry or distress. I thought of mothers and fathers worn out and frustrated with screaming babies, needing comfort themselves, desperately seeking the patience to meet their children’s needs with love. Ok, God, let this one be for them.

Contemplating his agony as he faced the suffering he was about to undergo, lonely and abandoned by those he loved most, I started to see how feeble my own complaints were. Then I moved to the scourging at the pillar and the crowning of thorns. I saw the images from Mel Gibson’s film of the Passion. The wounds he bore, the direct results of our sins, of my sins. Somehow my physical ailments aren’t seeming so great now. I grumble about how bad I feel quite a bit, don’t I? While Jesus never complains about his agony. He picks up his cross willingly. I gripe and complain about my tiny little crosses and bear them with a grudge. He received no respect or praise during his ordeal. He was mocked and spat upon. And then there’s poor, pitiful me, always seeking sympathy. I’m starting to see why God needed so badly to get my attention. Yeah, I needed to wake up.

am I really as incapable of doing things as I think I am or am I making excuses for myself? Am I trying as hard as I can? I stood at the foot of the cross and felt how miserable my excuses are. As I contemplate the death of God, and my own death, I realize how woefully far I have to go. How much dying to self I still have to do. If only I could stand here forever, wedding my life to his death so that death might not be my end but clinging to the cross I may rise with him to eternal life.

As I finished praying the final decade I was more awake than ever. It was about five, I’d guess. The alarm clock was going to go off soon; but I was more at peace than I’d been in a long time.

So I started in on the joyful mysteries, journeying with Mary through her pregnancy, delivery and motherhood. It had never occurred to me before how much suffering lies beneath the surface of these joyful mysteries. Pregnancy and motherhood certainly are full of joy; but they are also times of trial. Imagining the serenity with which Mary faced her trials gives me courage to attempt the same, to put aside my fears and worries and self-centeredness and to pay more attention to the miracle of life and to the presence of God.

Anyway, in the in the middle of that the alarm rang and Dom got up. I finished my last decade and was about to drift off to sleep… when I realized I had to use the bathroom. And Dom was still in the shower. By the time he got out, I was, alas, wide awake again. I managed to drift off a little some time after he left. Maybe 20 minutes, tops, before Bella woke up and started fussing.

But I went to get her with peace in my heart. I fed her grapes and she played in a sunbeam while I said my morning prayers. I love the way she smiles at me, the way she offers me a grape before eating one herself, the way she puts a grape in my hand and opens her mouth so I can pop it in. And her joy at discovering finger shadows in the bright sunlight that fell against the white of the front door was infectious.

I was actually doing pretty good until about time for morning nap. Then I put Bella down and crashed. And it wasn’t nearly long enough. I’ve been groggy all afternoon. And slightly sick to my stomach. Poor B is still in her pajamas. But at least she’s been fed and read to and sung to and played with and danced with. That’s what matters, right?

Today, listen to the voice of the Lord,
Do not grow stubborn, as your fathers did in the wilderness,
when at Meriba and Massah
they challenged me and provoked me,
Although they had seen all of my works.

Forty years I endured that generation.
I said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray
and they do not know my ways.”
So I swore in my anger, “They shall not enter into my rest.”

If you refuse to listen to God’s voice, he will not give you rest. As St. Augustine said, we are restless until we rest in him.



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