Night Watches

It feels like the middle of the night, but it can’t be more than an hour or so since we went to bed. I hear my oldest stepson’s Adventures in Odyssey CD still playing. But I also hear crying or moaning; I’m not sure which. And I can’t get my husband awake.

I get up to find my youngest stepson has walked (in his sleep) into his brother’s room. I shepherd him back to bed, and he crawls in and back to sleep without a word. He won’t remember this in the morning.

I head back to bed, tempted to look at my phone for the time. How long was I asleep? How long til I need to get up for work? But instead, I crawl back into bed myself, without even a glance, and pray that I go back to sleep.

I gave up nighttime iPhone checks for Lent.

It’s silly, right, not letting myself take a peek at the little screen just to see the time? I thought about using that as the exception to my fast when I set about making my annual Lenten rules. But checking the time seemed like a gateway to checking email or getting on Facebook or searching Safari for things like “how to organize a closet” or “new cures for cancer.”

If I want to, I can grab my glasses, and peer over my husband’s sleeping shoulders for a glimpse at his alarm clock to see what time it is. But really, a few weeks into it, knowing the time in those dark, lonely hours is the least of what is really being accomplished in my soul this Lent.

Sometimes, I need to just surrender my plans, my efforts, my skills. Sometimes, I need to just stop.

I need to stop cooking and cleaning and organizing. I need to stop building reports and designing marketing brochures and registering for trade shows.  I need to stop writing and researching and networking. I need to stop sending emails and checking Facebook and exploring Pinterest.

Sometimes, Lord help me, I even need to stop thinking and praying and worshipping and just go to sleep. It’s the greatest act of trust.

It’s not that I don’t like sleep. In fact, I’m often complaining that I don’t get enough sleep, or that when I wake up at night, I can’t go back to sleep. It’s why I started watching YouTube videos and checking Twitter updates in the wee hours anyway. Because I couldn’t sleep.

Or so I thought. Since I stopped flashing a bright little screen at myself several times a night, I’ve gotten remarkably better sleep. I still wake up, but then I turn over, pray for whatever is on my mind, and go right back to REM.

It seems like everyone else already knew this. A CNN Tech article from 2010 by John D. Sutter says that nighttime wakefulness starts when our eyes see bright lights, like those from an iPhone.

“When receptors in our eyes are hit with bright light for an extended period of time, they send a message to the brain saying it’s time to be awake. The brain, in turn, stops secreting a hormone called melatonin, which makes people sleepy and helps regulate the internal sleep clock,” the article said.

And of course I know this. Even after this recent exchange with my husband:

“You need to put your phone away,” my husband teased as we prepared to go to bed, after I had been chiding him for his recent interest in Facebook.

“No, it’s just in the middle of the night that I can’t check it,” I tell him. “As long as I am still awake, it’s ok.” But it’s not. Not for my Lenten fast, or for the healthy sleep I need.

It will be tempting when Easter rolls around, and technically—TECHNICALLY—I can go back to taking little peeks at my iPhone when I wake up in the night.

But hopefully, by then, I’ll be in the habit of sleeping so soundly that I won’t need to. Lord, help me.

Originally published at The High Calling on March 21, 2013. Image by Mario De Carli. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr.

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Charity Singleton Craig

Charity Singleton Craig is a writer, author, and speaker, helping readers grow in their faith and experience true hope in the middle of life’s joys and sorrows. She is the author of My Year in Words: what I learned from choosing one word a week for one year and coauthor of On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life That Lasts.