My husband gets up before me every morning. Sometimes I feel guilty about this (but not guilty enough to actually set my alarm in solidarity). I suppose I justify my extra bit of sleep by remembering all the nights I spend and have spent rocking, nursing, and changing kids in the middle of the night. On the Cosmic Sleep Scoreboard, I think we have just agreed to “call it even.” The thing is, Mike’s alarm goes off every morning just a few feet from me. He gets up and showers in the bathroom attached to our bedroom. He gets dressed in our room. And I very rarely even hear him. I wake and the spot next to me is vacant, the smell of bath soap is in the air, and he’s already at work.
And yet, in the middle of the night, I am awakened easily by my son rolling over and thumping his wall inadvertently in the process. I launch out of bed to peek at him and make sure it wasn’t a sign of distress from a problem related to his diabetes. Or, a tiny voice from a different bed calls softly “mom!” My feet are on her bedroom floor before I know I’m awake. “Can you cover me back up?” The thump and the tiny voice are much more subtle than an alarm clock. They are so much farther away from me than the sounds of the dresser and closet drawers that are opened and closed as Mike prepares to face the day. But those are the noises I hear. Those are the noises that stir me so abruptly that I am out of bed like a firefighter responding to the firehouse siren.
I wonder whether we can train our ears to listen to God the way motherhood has taught my ears to listen for thumps and soft calls of my name. I wonder whether we can teach ourselves to listen for the important Voice, rather than the noise that doesn’t need our attention. Because, in my life, I am often caught up listening to the equivalent of dresser drawers and closet doors—things that don’t really matter. Unlike my fine-tuned mommy ears, my God-following ears struggle to filter out the “background noise.” What would it take for me to jump with the same kind of reckless abandonment at God’s call? If I’m honest, I suspect that I jump at the sound of my children because of how intimately I know them and because of how fiercely I love them. Maybe this tells me something about what is lacking about my relationship with God.
I also wonder whether God hears us the way I hear my children. Does God jump to attention when we call out in need? What if it’s something as simple as just the need to know that God will be there when we call? “God, I just need to be covered back up. I need to know that you’re still nearby. I need to know that it’s not just me in this lonely room in the middle of the night.”
May we trust that God is the loving Parent who comes to us in those lonely middles of the night. And may we work to listen attentively to the Voice that both reassures and challenges us; that both comforts and calls us; that is more profound but also perhaps softer than the “noise” that tends to demand our attention.
Rev. Emily Slade
Minister of Children and Visitation