Song in the Night
Last week, I dared, and opened a dialog on the inscrutability of mysterious night seasons. Since I’m neither a scientist nor a philosopher this may have seemed unduly bold, but even the simple may marvel. My attention was irresistibly drawn in when I went through a taxing season of physical changes that refocused sleep in a way I had never really considered, so I’ve been pondering the paradox of nocturnal hours that take up so large a chunk of our lifetimes. When you consider that a third of our lives is spent in slumber (almost 25 years), it follows that there must be a multitude of important functions in motion that we take very much for granted. Ergo, if you listen to anyone who struggles with insomnia or conditions which deprive the body of proper REM, you will hear exactly how important it is. They will assure you, in their litany of woe, that dysfunction in our resting periods affects all other parts of our lives.
The Bible actually has an amazing amount to say about both spiritual night seasons of difficult testing and actual physical hours of somnolence. Both types of nocturnal periods in our lives are shrouded in secrecy. Stating the obvious, you can’t see in the dark, so subterranean territories of the unconscious and subconscious are a labyrinthian maze we traverse with hesitant trepidation. Think about it. As we rest, normal boundaries of propriety, age, culture or sex fall away from us. Dreamers abandon social programing and protocol to chase the mind’s eye as it projects enigmatic impressions and cryptic messages. We survey a spectacle of vivid, fleeting images flowing out of our own spirits; thrilling, but also often disturbingly grotesque. We move through multiple cloudy layers of perception and imagination, colorful or clammy, never quite sure where we are or where we’re headed. It’s a roller-coaster blast where we control neither the speed nor the subject; blithely content that we will emerge unscathed from the maelstrom to once again waken the dawn. All things considered, it’s absolutely, uproariously crazy.
But sleep is necessary. Sleep is precious. While we lay on our beds, everything slows down, but the body is ridiculously busy. Neither our brain nor our heart naps in the night. Although major muscles are paralyzed in dreaming, while they rest and repair, internally, tissues are actually restocking their energy reserves. As we blissfully doze, cells are regenerating, healing, restoring immune function. Hormones flood the body, recalibrating our appetites and emotional capacities The kaleidoscope of mental images accumulated in the day transfer along neurons from short-term memory to long-term storage. There’s a multitude of curative, invigorating functions cascading along all systems. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
As hectic as the care-taker activities of the physical are, they’re nothing compared to the powerhouse of the psyche. For a real understanding of these profound activities, we’re going to have to turn to Scripture.
“I sleep, but my heart is awake; It is the voice of my beloved! He knocks, saying, “Open for me, my sister, my love, My dove, my perfect one; My beloved put his hand by the latch of the door, And my heart yearned for him. I arose to open for my beloved, and my hands dripped with myrrh, My fingers with liquid myrrh, on the handles of the lock.” Song of Solomon 5:2,3,5
“I slept, but my heart stayed awake”. There’s a whole world of revelation in that statement. Our hearts are not simply the staunch pump that keeps the show going, but a massive repository of emotion, memory, conscience, experience, aspiration and self-image. The heart is the mystical membrane between our mental and spiritual existence, the pericardium that protects us. More importantly, it’s the visceral garden of Eden where we commune with God.
We're told that a divine dance is offered to us in the season of the night. What if sleep isn’t just an interval of senseless torpidity, but rather the clockwork opportunity for us to download the intense barrage of impressions, images, intuitions, exchanges and internal dialogs we’ve stock-piled during the hours of light? What if our dreams are really the mesh we embroider the brilliant, garish, iridescent, tender colors of these treasures upon? What if we play out our subconscious desires, reveries, frights and foibles on the movie screen of our internal vision for mutual debriefing with the Lord, as our great interpreter and counsellor? What if sleep is the dumping ground of grace for toxic psychic waste far too radioactive for containment? Look closely and see; that’s what the Word says.
I will bless the Lord, Who has given me counsel; yes, my heart instructs me in the night seasons. Psalm 16:7
What if, in sleep, we can literally walk in the Garden again with the Lord, and commune with Him in the intimacy of our hearts? Even in sleep, God has not left us forsaken, abandoned, driven out or destitute. Here in the sanctified darkness, senses become sharpened; we find ourselves; we lay down our defenses. Our soul huddles with the Lord in a campfire confidential, finally blurting out the subliminal subtext of the day; pouring out our very souls for cleansing.
Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; All Your waves and billows have gone over me. The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, And in the night His song shall be with me— A prayer to the God of my life. Psalm 42:7-8
As He created you in the womb of the morning star, the Lord sang a song of destiny over you, and every night, He sings it again, to remind you who you are. Listen with your heart, and you will hear it. We need to find that song and hold on to it, in the night, and in the night seasons. We navigate the deep of night seasons the same way we navigate sleep…by listening to the dialog of the heart, not just our own, but the Lord's.
Thank-you Lord, for the glorious gift of sleep. Every night that passes, it's more precious to me.