Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Holding On 'til Morning

My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning (Psalm 130:6).

I’ve never been a night watchman, but I have worked the midnight shift. Somehow Baylor Hospital in Dallas felt like a different place between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. I was no stranger to those halls, usually doing my work there during normal business hours. But from time to time I was given the midnight shift. A hospital can be a very lonely place in the deep darkness of night and in the hours of early morning before dawn. I was always ready for the midnight shift to end.

It’s a peculiar time to work because the work doesn’t feel like work. Patients usually don’t want the Chaplain to drop by for a little sit-down at 2:30 a.m. There isn’t actually much to do. At Baylor the Chaplains had a room to use during the midnight shift. It had a bed and a TV – but you could never truly rest.

There wasn’t much to do, but you were never truly at rest. That’s the nature of night-time waiting. The waiting seasons of life are usually not busy seasons. Sometimes we busy ourselves in order to forget that we are in fact waiting, but it’s a fabricated busy-ness. And at the same time, waiting seasons are rarely peaceful. We may be still, but not at peace. We’re on edge, anticipating something, even if we’re not sure what it is.

Psalm 130 gives us the picture of a watchman, standing his post, waiting for daylight. This is how we wait on God. Our soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning.

The watchman has been at work standing and pacing. There isn’t much to do – but the act of keeping watch will not allow a moment of rest or inattention. Watchmen listen and peer into darkness, every sound a potential threat. Waiting. Tense.

And then morning comes. Things look differently in the light of day.

Maybe one of the most difficult aspects of this night-time waiting is the loneliness and the isolation. In most places where people work the midnight shift, they work in buildings that are largely empty. Then morning comes and life returns.

It may be that the morning for which we wait will not come when the sun rises. But just as the earth moves and daylight eventually penetrates darkness, the morning that ends our waiting will come. Our God acts on behalf of those who wait for him (Isaiah 64:4).

Can you recall a difficult night that made you glad to see the light of morning?

Let your light break into my life today, O God. Sometimes in my night-time waiting I imagine threats that don’t exist. Grant me light to see things as they truly are. Strengthen my faith, knowing that you will act on behalf of those who wait on you. Amen.

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