I appreciated the notification, and both the notifier and I agreed I could take no further action until later that day, so I returned to my bed, my side no longer warm because of the length of the phone call. Sleep, however, had fled from my bedroom and body. The engine of my brain roared to life, with no key available for me to turn it off.
I have a running joke with a local businessman that I only work two hours a week--the two hours of worship on Sunday mornings. That, of course, is the perception many have of us who fill that public role, but whose other work is often invisible.
I wonder today, in these dark hours, if time spent in heart-rending and passionate prayer for my people count as work hours. If the hours spent in careful self-examination and personal study that enable me to more mindfully offer a life suffused with grace and spiritual health to this community get to be counted as well. If the long moments spent with the sick of soul and sick of body seeking to re-ignite the hope of eternal life, both in the present and in the future, can be added to my work hour list. What about the moments when I am being told that I have failed as both pastor and leader because I have not lived up to the expectations placed upon me? Can I add those?
Clearly, the dawn has not yet broken, either outside or inside. I ponder those who work these dark hours: those in law enforcement, medical care, clerks in all-night enterprises. Does the outside darkness oppress them? Does the time spent in that inkiness reinforce for their tendency to melancholy as it does mine? Sleep, now hope of it completely gone, provides such a sweet way to spend that time. This has not been a sweet night at all.
The wind is picking up outside as greater chill invades North Texas. I sit wrapped in blankets, enjoying the warmth of my computer on my lap, noting that my hot tea grows cold quickly. My husband slumbers on, his rest only momentarily disturbed after I answered the call. I'm grateful for his sleeping sounds, the restful breaths. If I can't, at least he can. He spent his many dark hours doing what I am doing tonight and his rest is well earned.
I think about what seem to me to be stupid choices that have led to this 3 am. phone call. Everyone gets to make them. The more I try to protect people from the consequences of their choices, the worse things get. Ultimately, each of us has to assume responsibility for our own salvation, working things out directly with God. I can't force it, although I wish I could. I ponder again my own stupid choices over the years, remembering once more that there really is nothing that can separate us from the love of God except my decision not to receive it. God is present even in our stupidity--perhaps even more so, because those moments sometimes crack open doors to new life that have remained stubbornly stuck before. Sometimes . . . I can only hope tonight is one of those times.