Whoever said it takes only 21 days for something to become a habit must have been doing something fun, or easy. Because I’ve been going to bed at 9 p.m. for 36 days now, give or take a couple of days, and it still doesn’t feel natural. In fact, I’m probably going to stay up until midnight on the Saturday before Easter just because I can.

Why is it so hard to give things up?

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One night during this season of Lent, I was lying in bed, mind wandering, trying hard to pray, when I heard a rumbling noise just beneath me. At first I was concerned, and then I remembered that there is a sump pump installed in the ground beneath my bed. Though it wasn’t even raining at the time, the contraption down in the gravely pit of the crawl space was keeping the water from seeping up and slowly flooding my house.

“Great,” I thought. “Something else to keep me awake while I just lie here.” (Apparently, I don’t always have a good attitude when I’m lying in bed.)

But as the rainy season continued, and the sump pump kept running night after night, I began to imagine God down there, siphoning off the flood waters of anxiety and fear that threatened to undo me.

But I pray to you, LORD,
in the time of your favor;
in your great love, O God,
answer me with your sure salvation.
Rescue me from the mire,
do not let me sink;
deliver me from those who hate me,
from the deep waters.
Do not let the floodwaters engulf me
or the depths swallow me up
or the pit close its mouth over me.
Psalm 69:13-15

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Sometimes, while I am laying there at in bed, I wonder if I’ve learned anything at all these past few weeks of giving up the night. Though I should be more well-rested than ever, I’ve been living on edge. I’ve yelled at my puppy though she is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. I’ve cried a few times. I’ve received really bad news about a dear family member. One day, on a Wednesday or Thursday, I went to look for my Bible, and I found it just where I left it. On Sunday.

I know that the point of Lent and fasting and committing my ways to the Lord is not just about learning stuff. In fact, the expectation that every circumstance has a “lesson from God” for me may itself create a kind of tension that floods over me at night, keeping me awake.

Everything can’t be about me. Really. I know that.

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I was only joking earlier about staying up until midnight on Easter Eve, because the truth of the matter is, it actually has been good for me to go to bed early every night. Maybe not in the life altering way I was hoping for. After all, I’m still anxious when I lay down. I still have a hard time shutting off my brain. I am still learning to trust.

But for the past 36 days, at 9 p.m. I have stopped. I have submitted myself to the death of sleep, giving up plans and expectations. I have looked humbly to the next day as a new beginning with new mercies to greet me in the morning. And I have tried to remember that there is only One who established the force of the wind and measured out the waters, only One who made a decree for the rain and a path for the thunderstorm (Job 28).

And it’s not me.

Photo from the Flickr Commons – no permission required.