now I lay me down
Early evening, and already I feel splintered and scattered and sore from carrying the day. It has been one of those—the kind of day that wakes me before the sun, pressing into me in the emptied hours, and then sends me chasing time and late for everything; the kind of day in which, right from the beginning, nothing goes as expected. All day, I have ached to sit still with God, to unfold into safe conversation, to ask Him to touch my tired eyes with His fingers. I have lately become someone willing to fight against distraction for that time—just the one thing, to dwell with Him. But it isn’t easy, and it likely will never be, because there’s a nasty strategy set against our seeking.
I like to root a day in prayer, and usually, that’s how I wake up: gathering spiritual steam while I sip my coffee. But today, I woke to urgency and needs and time, and never managed to find a minute for stillness. And now, I have just one thing on my mind: sleep. I wash my face, smoothing moisturizer on my cheeks, not missing the gift of even that simplicity, and then I pull a brush through my hair and exchange my t-shirt and jeans for some soft pajamas. I crawl under the quilt and the pale, sky-colored sheet, lightly cool against my legs. A sigh slips over my lips with a groan as I try to let go of heavy thoughts, of wondering how in the world I will take it all up again tomorrow. I close my eyes and lay there doing a cursory inventory of my own weariness, trying to toss away each thought as it comes. I might as well be juggling hand weights. Even my fingers feel sore from gripping, as though I’ve been climbing all day or maybe just holding on too hard.
He’s looking at me. I feel it, my husband’s steady gaze from somewhere out past the end of the bed, and I open my eyes to find him standing outside my war room door (my war room is the place where I paper the walls with my prayers; and if you haven’t seen the movie that inspired me to create one, you should), looking as exhausted as I feel. And yet, there’s something determined about the way he stands, resting his hand on the knob. “I’m going in here for a while,” he says. “Want to come?” It isn’t an expectation or a challenge, just an invitation–generous, kind.
Kevin makes it easy, the acknowledgement of something I just didn’t even see, that it’s never too late in the day to spend time with God. I slide back out of bed, carrying all my how-in-the-worlds right with me, and together we sit bent-legged and arm-wrapped and confidently approach the thone of grace. I open my mouth to tell God how weary I am, how tired and unsure and crazy-confused, but what comes out is an armload of gratitude I didn’t even realize I’d gathered, enough to stack into a hedge around me, enough to fill up all my cavernous spaces. And then, before I can talk to Him about how I can’t seem to, He pours into me a lifespring of living truth about who He is and what He’s done; about how He establishes peace for us, how everything we’ve ever accomplished He’s done; about how He made me Himself and planned things in advance for me to do; how I’ll reap a harvest—His harvest–at the proper time, if I just don’t give up. And I don’t even have to say the other things, because He already knew, and He sets about straightening my gaze from the moment I hear him knocking and open the door. Before I even identify my own hunger, He begins spreading the feast, and just now I realize that He’s had it waiting for me, just ready for when I choose to come to the table. By the time I finish praying, I feel satisfied and light and held.
Then Kevin prays too, and it’s as though he empties his heart, placing bits of found-things on the floor in front of us, fossils and gunky parts, beautiful stones, worn slips of paper faded with writing. He doesn’t try to make sense of any of it, nor sifts through to ascribe value. But as my husband prays, God rearranges and reimagines and refines the things we place at His feet, until we can clearly see that it’s all only useful when lifted and shaped by His hands. So, we lean right into each other while God draws near, and, without a word to each other, resolve to leave it all. I don’t have to take it up again in the morning, not even the first thing, but have only to let Him move me, lift me, change me as He will.
When at last we fall silent and stand—Kevin, he reaches and pulls me to my feet, we’re finally truly ready for rest. I slide between those crisp sky-colored sheets and melt away, as light and unbound as a wild wind, as powerful as an eagle, soaring.