A Long Three-Night Journey Into Day

Emma, the younger of my twin toddlers, was the first to get sick this week.  I came home from a meeting at church around 10:30pm on night one, and she clung to me from the moment I said, “What are you still doing up?”  For the next sixteen hours, she would not (or could not) sleep unless I was holding her.  Every time I tried to set her in her bed, she would wake screaming, no matter how fast asleep she had been.  And so I rocked and paced and sat and flopped with her snuggled into my chest until neither of us could go any more.

The next night I thought I was home free. The house was perfectly quiet.  Then, just before midnight, as I was on my way to bed after writing a celebratory, “Sleep: here I come,” status update on my FB profile, Mary woke up when I peeked in to check on her and Emma.  She, too, was showing symptoms of the virus. But unlike her sister, she showed little interest in sleeping her way back to health.  She preferred to have Daddy read to her cold.  Around 3:00am, when I was about to fall flat on my face with exhaustion, I began bargaining with her.  “Please let Daddy go to sleep.  You could lie down and go to sleep, too.  That way we’ll both get some rest and I can read all the books you want tomorrow.” No luck.  So I tried again.  “Please let Daddy go to sleep.  Mommy must be lonely in bed all by herself.  Don’t you think Mommy is lonely?  Why don’t you lie down and go to sleep so Daddy can go and sleep and help Mommy not to feel so lonely.”  She took four drags on her pacifier and looked me right in the face. “No.”  I honestly cannot remember what happened after that.  All I know is that I managed to sneak out of her room at some point and the clock on the nightstand glared 4:23.

Night three was a tag-team affair.  Kristen and I both fell asleep in the girls’ room after getting them to bed.  We woke up at some point and managed to make it into our own bed for two or three hours before a chorus of screams jarred me back to consciousness.  Kristen followed me into the fray about fifteen minutes later when it became clear that I was vastly outnumbered. All four of us ended up in a heap on the living room couch just as dawn was breaking.  The next thing I can recall is stumbling into the kitchen to make coffee  while the babies were distracted by Clifford the Big Red Dog.

I am hoping and praying (REALLY praying) that this night will, at last, be restful. Yet I know that I will get up–again–and rock and pace and flop with one or more children–again–if it proves otherwise.  Mary and Emma turned two this month, so it’s not like these late night forays are anything new.  But somehow it doesn’t get easier.

I thought about a lot of things while I was in all those places other than my bed. I wish I could say I prayed a centering prayer or used the time to reconnect with the spiritual practice of examen. But I didn’t. I thought about all the things I had to do the following day that would not get done–or that I would be miserable doing because  I would be so tired.  I thought about how unfair and untimely it all was.  I played songs in my head and gave props to Cutting Crew for getting love right: the hardest part is when you’re in it.  And as the nights wore on, as arrogantly as it sounds, somewhere in the ebb and flow of feeling sorry for myself and feeling bad for feeling sorry for myself, I thought about how I was like God.

I was in all of these places other than my bed because all those places were where my children needed me to be. So much of the biblical narrative shows God doing precisely the same thing: leading the Israelites through the wilderness as a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night; Jesus spending His days with the sick and the sinful; the Risen Christ walking the Road to Emmaus and passing through walls to be with His disciples in their post-Easter confusion.  These three nights have given new depth and meaning to my understanding of God as Father.

They have also given new depth and meaning to my understanding of grace. Mary and Emma are a lot more like me than I want to admit.

I’d like to say more, but that’s all I’ve got.  I am, at last, turning in.  Perhaps when sleep has restored my strength and pushed Cutting Crew out of my head, I’ll give it another go.  Or perhaps the best I can do–the best any of us can do–at the end of the day is give thanks and go to bed so that we might have the strength and energy to live a more grace-full and Christ-like life.

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