May 6, 2020
The Angel of Night
Summoned from sleep in the heart of night
My name is called and, like Samuel, I rise from my bed seeking the caller.
Summoned from sleep I am drawn into the beating heart
Of the One who called me.
The angel of night lights a candle in my soul
Inviting me to listen to the wordless song of Divine Union.
Deep healing. Deep listening. Deep waiting. Deep watching.
All of these become a part of my night watch.
In the heart of the night you prepare me to be your deep healing
For all who watch through the night of their fears. ~ Macrina Wiederkehr
Two years ago when I was about to embark on my journey with The Transforming Center, Emma gave me a nice journal. In it, she wrote, “This journal is for your adventures in Chicago or for anything you wish to write”. I took it with me on every retreat. But I have never been good at journal keeping. As I have looked back through it, the times I have written were the times when I was earnestly seeking some direction or wrestling with a stirring I couldn’t name. Trying to process my gut, heart, and head.
On March 23, I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t go back to sleep. I often wake up multiple times in the night but this night I could not settle back to sleep. If I’m honest, I had been feeling a nagging nudge waking me up several nights in a row leading up to this night. It is frustrating when your body fights you with what you think it needs. “If I lay here with my eyes closed, I WILL go back to sleep”! I have said that more than a few times when young children used to live here. I got up, went downstairs and lit a candle.
We had just lived through about one week of the quarantine life. Feeling like we were simply on vacation, any thoughts of the church not being together in just a few weeks to celebrate Easter Sunday sounded ridiculous and were quickly cast far away. “That won’t happen”, I thought.
Another event that I also couldn’t fathom not being able to do was the pilgrimage with Dr. Gloer to Christ of the Desert Monastery. Surely, we would be past this by then. It was something I’d been looking forward to for so many months. It seemed like the perfect capstone to my journey for the past two years with the Transforming Community and my ordination. To get to travel with my favorite professor and theologian to a place that is so dear to him. Spending one week in the desert with monks (real monks!) in sacred silence, prayer, chanting, listening. My heart flutters just thinking about it! We were scheduled to leave this Sunday, May 10.
The times I have recorded something in my journal, never have I made note of the time of day. But this night I did. This is what I wrote at 3:34 am. This is My Psalm:
This may be the thing for this time – this time of staying home – such a crazy and unexpected turn of events. I feel this is so critical – how should I use this time? Such disappointment in so many things cancelled and postponed. God, I was so looking forward to the desert – an actual desert! But certainly this is a kind of desert. And if you are keeping sleep away from me tonight, so be it. I will practice with the monks from here. Why not? Out of the depths I cry to you – hear my prayer – from my deepest and darkest places – transform every fiber of my being, my soul waits in stillness, my soul waits for you O God. In quietness satisfy me with your face. Your ways are not my ways, your thoughts are not my thoughts. Gather me ~~~ this my desert ~~~ I will wait. Waiting and trusting in your slow work of transformation.
After a time of tears and looking out the window into the darkness, I felt a connection with the monks. You see, in the pre-dawn hours, they are already praying the Night Watch. Keeping vigil for deep listening during the mysterious and silent darkness.
I rise before dawn and cry for help; I put my hope in your words. My eyes are awake before each watch of the night, that I may meditate on your promise. Psalm 119:147-148
Macrina Wiederkehr says to never underestimate what small acts of love and creativity can do – whether in the height of the day or in the depth of the night. Our prayers can connect with weary souls waiting up in the night holding vigilance over the mystery of presence and transformation that does its work in spite of us. Surrender to the nudges. Lean in to the nagging that cannot be named. Keep vigil in the Night Watch. Certainly not all night vigils are laden with worry and uncertainty. But this night for me was. Maybe you have had one too. And maybe our summons from sleep were connected and we shared a Night Watch of deep listening and waiting.
Writing/journaling doesn’t come easy for me. I get quite overwhelmed trying to collect my thoughts and make some sense of them most days. But I have to say it is comforting to go back and read past entries. It is therapeutic to recall the emotions and realize the perceptions that drove those emotions. It is healing. It is worship.
Let me encourage you to write something down during this time. Whether it is first thing in the morning or during the Night Watch. No matter if it is a song of praise, a cry for help, or a scream of rage. Write it down and let your worship rise.