While You Were Sleeping
Yesterday Norah, our one-year-old, fell asleep on the way home in the car. This is a common occurrence, and would have been a cuteness explosion except for the fact that the night before (and several nights in past weeks) she has slept hardly at all, and offers up Janis Joplin-esque screams for forty minutes at a time. Now even in my sleep I dream of this child’s scream, and yes, Dr. Seuss, it’s as bad as it seems. My lovely wife is taking the brunt of it at night, but we’re coping with bad reruns on the WB and Cheez-Its.
Fast forward to child who fell asleep in the car; we’d had such anger towards her, and now here she is, docile little thing, fast asleep on momma’s shoulder. Marci silently gave me the command to take off her hat and coat. It was quite wonderful, really, finding the little knot under chin, tied together to protect her ears from cold, and sliding the knit cap gently from her head, exposing soft locks of tangled mess on her head, the remains of a Dad-inspired poorly chosen haircut. Then, the jacket; her limbs hung loose as I unzipped her coat and then pulled her arms like tiny Polish sausages from her coat sleeves; what a precious little bear. And she needs me, she needs me.
How God must tire of my tantrums, of my refusal to listen and lack of trust that what he says is best. Like my child, we’re better off just allowing ourselves to be moved, to be taken where God would have us go despite the alarm bells of comfort and control that we’ve set in place. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” Pr. 3:4-5.
Even my most reserved, polite objections are internally firestorms of unrest and self-doubt. I am reminded that when God brought Israel out of Egypt, he said to them, “The Lord will fight for you, you have only to be silent” Ex. 14:14. And the best part is, of course, no matter how many restless nights I cause, he will always desire to hold me in his arms, to give me all I need, and make me feel secure again. Nothing can snatch me from his hand, for he is always vigilant.
I lift up my eyes to the hills,
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.
In paintings you see of the Root of Jesse that you might see this Christmas (Is. 11), notice that particularly in medieval art, Jesse is asleep. A root or branch is sprouting from him, and from this line, of course, our savior is born. It’s a good reminder that Jesse didn’t orchestrate that, that like Adam, during the making of Eve, was asleep, and God was doing the necessary work. God put forth a plan for our salvation, not a plan that we received an email about beforehand to confirm, but one executed from the great love and knowledge of the one who made everything we see before us. We need him, oh, we need him.
And now, and only now, once we’re here in this place, can we go out and be that light, to have the privilege of bearing the kingdom to the watching world. There is a good Advent hymn written in 1642 by Georg Weissel titled “Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates” in which we find these words: “O blest the land, the city blest, where Christ the Ruler is confessed!”