in the night
3 am and I wake with a gasp, resurrected from deep sleep. I am so tired that the word tired doesn’t quite work. Trampled might be better.
It is an unlikely night for a victory.
Adam stands next to my bed, shifting, trying for words. I’m not sure if he touched me or if I just felt him there, looking, searching my face. I prop myself up on one arm.
“Adam, what is it?” Adam has never purposely awakened us in the night. I know why he stands there (and I want to shout for hardly believing), but even in the half-sleep quiet of darkness, I know it’s better if he tells me himself. The question is too loose, I know this immediately. So, I try again.
“Adam, what do you need?”
I can see that he understands, but still, the words won’t come. It’s 3 am, after all, the strange hour when the still awake talk wide open and unhindered, but the awakened can’t quite take hold of anything they want to say. Even in the darkness, his eyes shine piercing blue.
“Adam, what is your blood sugar?” I ask finally, knowing this to be the real reason for his visit.
“48,” he says immediately. Numbers come so much more easily to him than words.
“And you need a fast sugar,” I say, filling in.
“Yea,” he says softly, still moving uncomfortably beside the bed, as though everything feels out of balance and drifting. This victory is new to both of us.
I reach into my bedside table and pull out a bag of Skittles, pouring a handful into Adam’s extended palm.
“Good job, Buddy. I am so proud of you,” I tell him as he eats. “You did a great, great job waking Mommy up.”
“Sweet boy,” he murmurs through the chewing and the sweet rainbow juice collecting on his lips.
“Yes, you are a sweet boy,” I agree, smiling, glad to be awake for this moment.
This coming in the night is what we hoped for, what we anticipated, what we’ve been training Adam to do. We did not know how long or when, but after the last few emergencies with DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis), we decided that the time had come to start equipping Adam with routines that would help him avoid the dangerous unknowns of the night time and all our deep rest.
So, we set an alarm for Adam in his room. Kevin set one for himself too, and in the bathroom, we placed a checklist for the night. 1. Go to the bathroom. 2. Test your blood sugar. 3. If your blood sugar is this, do this. Kevin—my amazing, wonderful man—gets up every night and takes Adam through the steps. Testing, interpreting, action. And it’s not easy, all the waking, Kevin heaving himself out of bed, the training right out of deep sleep. But we knew Adam could learn to take these steps, and he had already begun to catch on much faster than we anticipated. I knew Adam was getting the idea that he should turn the alarm off, go to the bathroom, test, but I still wasn’t convinced he would follow our directions in the most dire circumstances.
And then he did.
Kevin had hit the snooze on his own alarm without realizing it. But independently, Adam followed the steps when he most needed them, when I least expected he would. Bathroom, test, action.
So Adam stands by me in the dark, eating Skittles.
In all our teaching we look ahead, imagining our son as a man. And I begin to see the man in him now, standing vulnerable in the wide open night. So often, Adam is my sign of victory, of time coming.
And if you have children with unusual and difficult challenges, you know what it means to really wonder if your child will be able to live independently. You know what it means to ask yourself what will be needed to care for them if ever you can’t be there, if your body won’t let you be there. I have a binder that I am always developing, just in case. For Adam, those questions include the possibility of medical emergency, the need to teach him how to manage diabetes, how to be safe. And training him, helping him understand what the numbers mean and eventually how to adjust doses becomes infinitely more complicated when communication is also a challenge. So for us, this visit in the night comes with elated, sweet joy, the fruit of difficult work.
Adam stands next to me, eating his Skittles, and I think, “This is the difference between time passing and time coming. Time coming bears fruit, brings harvest. Time coming brings victory blooming bright from seeds of hope planted in the dark earth with sore, tired, bleeding fingers.
Sometimes in the night, in the stumbling, silent, chilly hours, it’s hard to remember that day will break. It’s hard to remember this truth:
Time doesn’t waste; it comes; it births.
How still, I wonder, was the sleepy darkness when angels came to shepherds and proclaimed victory, His coming celebrated in the night? How black did it feel just before Holy fingers ripped apart the night sky, before Glory gathered them in, before the heavenly chorus flashed over their heads? How unlikely did His coming feel that night? Before, didn’t everything just feel normal, dark, tired? Didn’t they just watch warily for predators, looking for danger? Did they even know, in all the working, to anticipate the arrival of a king?
I wonder if some of those shepherds already lay sleeping, heads against cold stone, lost to themselves, wrapped up in robes that smelled of grass and sheep. Maybe they woke gasping, knowing not if they’d been touched but only that the angel was there.
Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger (Luke 2:10-12).
And then suddenly, scripture says, the sky filled with lightening-robed angels singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests (v.14).”
Sometimes He comes at night to show us that He doesn’t need the sun to light up the sky. He is the light that shatters all our impossible darkness.
And He comes not with trumpets and crowns and banners but with baby cries, bundled in a young, scandalized mother’s arms, away from home, tucked to sleep with the animals because there’s no room for him here. He comes not to dignitaries, not to royal courts, not to the honored. He comes to shepherds watching flocks, to the ones with strong hands and dirty feet who smell of earth. He comes to ordinary us.
He comes in our dark, normal, tired night and rips apart the sky with news of victory. He comes while we’re still gasping weary. The time comes and He comes; He, the joy birthed in pain. At the unlikely times, He comes to the unlikely ones, wrapping us up in Glory.
I have learned not to trust the night, nor place the unlikely, impossible thing on a high shelf to gather dust just out of reach. My children teach me this truth; they show me: Time doesn’t waste. I have learned not to think a day too normal for a victory, nor us too ordinary for a miracle.
Time comes and my son comes, waking me up on a night so unlikely for a victory.
And all that’s left is the singing:
Glory, Glory, Glory and on earth, peace.