Let me tell you, 3 am is not my friend. It used to be – before I had kids. In fact, I never even knew there was more than one 3:00 in a day until after our first child was born. But after that, it became quite apparent. Here are just a few things that happen at or around that bleak hour of the morning:
Puking – Why oh why can’t kids throw up at 6 pm? It is always in the middle of the night, and, in our house at least, it resembled one of those impact sprinklers that was sure to douse every exposed surface in said kid’s room. How many times have sheets been washed and changed in the wee hours?!
Scary phone calls – You know – the ones no one ever wants to get. A friend or loved one has been in an accident, or has lost a battle with an illness. Devastating.
Post Prom – Running on fumes as everyone is cleaning up and putting stuff away, trying to get out of there as quickly as possible.
Bellowing cows have broken through a fence and are out all over the road.
Nursing someone with an earache, or sore throat, or bad cough, or…fill in the blank.
As I have gotten older, I am becoming more acquainted with 3 am. Not by choice. Sometimes I just pop awake near that time of the morning. I don’t always stay awake long. But sometimes I do. I find that this is a time when my mind can go off on some of the most bizarre rabbit trails.
It is a desolate time. A lonely time. A silent time when we are just with ourselves. Places that could normally give us help are closed. People who we usually rely on are asleep, or maybe far away, in beds of their own. All that is on TV is infomercials. No one has updated Facebook posts, Insta-stories, or SnapChats for hours.
It is a time when my imagination can, and often has, run wild. I tend to worry. To obsess. To take every “what if” to the extreme. It may be about work, family, kids, an acquaintance, something I said, or didn’t say. Sometimes I have conversations where I mentally act out everyone’s role. “Well, if I say this, then she will say that. And boy, will I have a response for her! She better watch out!” Have you heard the phrase “Don’t borrow trouble?” Well I not only borrow it, I keep it without ever intending to give it back.
A few months ago, two instances happened within a week that shed new light on this problem. A God-story if you will. First, I read this lovely quote in the devotional Jesus Calling: “A troublesome problem can become an idol in your mind. If you consistently think about something – pleasant or unpleasant – more than you think about Me, you are practicing a subtle form of idolatry…Chronic difficulty can captivate your mind, taking over increasingly more of your mental activity. ”
Oh my goodness! Chronic difficulty! That is often what has woken me up at night! And, at times, I will admit that it has taken over my mental activity.
Then there was this a few days later. Sandra Garwood was visiting our small group one Sunday morning and she mentioned the difference between the glance and the gaze. When I wake up in the middle of the night, I need to discipline myself to merely glance at the problems, not gaze at them. I need to reserve my gaze for Christ and His work.
These two nuggets of knowledge have helped me not to give such importance to my problems in the middle of the night. To instead, take those thoughts captive, as Paul urges us to do in his letter to the Corinthians. I often see myself as Cowboy Lisa, lassoing those thoughts, tying them up, and hauling them to the feet of Jesus. (Yes, to anyone who knows me, that is a rather ridiculous image. But sometimes I need a little comic relief in the dark hours!) I don’t want ANYTHING to take his place on the throne, especially something in my life that is bad.
I have found my thoughts staying more “rounded up” lately. When I am tempted to obsess, I remember to glance. Then I gaze at Jesus and pray for strength to deal with the issue. I also count my blessings; pray for my friends and family; plan fun events in the future; gaze at the wonder of my Saviour.
The next time you wake at 3 am (or any other time) it is my prayer that you merely glance at your problems, and gaze at Him.
Sweet dreams and sleep tight, my friends.