You know how it goes. You wake, maybe suddenly, maybe slowly, but it’s still dark. You wonder what time it is, and then you hear it. The siren call of the baby’s cries. You push back the covers and slouch out of bed, trying to avoid any and all obstacles, including the doorframe. You get to the baby, begin your shushing and cuddling and kissing. Settle into your nursing nook. The baby’s cries turn into gulps, and you lean your head back to rest your eyes. Then there it is. That song.
Please tell me I am not alone. The same 12 words begin repeating themselves over and over and over again. Maybe it’s a theme song from the latest cartoon your toddler has been watching. Or it could be a jingle from a commercial. Or the latest chart topper that’s been playing every hour on the hour on the radio. (People still listen to the radio, right? In the car at least.)
When this happens to me, and it does – every night, I feel like Mark Watney in The Martian. He’s less than thrilled about Commander Lewis’ taste in music. As we hear “Turn the Beat Around” playing in the background, he says “No, I’m not gonna turn the beat around. I refuse to.” Only for me it’s “Martha was an average dog…” I don’t care. And lately “Everything is awesome! Everything is cool when you’re part of a team!” No. Everything is not awesome. Everything is miserable if I have to hear that song one more time. In my head. In the middle of the night.
I’ll be honest, my first choice in the middle of the night is sleep. But this rarely happens. Especially not consistently. Since I find myself awake more than I’d like, I want to use the time well, whether it’s a half an hour, an hour, two hours, or more. I want to pray or meditate, as the Psalmists did, on the Lord, His work, His word, and His wonders.
When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches,
For You have been my help,
And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
But when I lie awake my mind is too full of other things. Even if I’m not thinking about tomorrow’s to-do list, or the preparations I still have left for some event, or calculating flour to liquid to leavening ratios, my mind is full. And sadly not always of the Lord and His words. Perhaps you can relate. You know that saying “You are what you eat”? What about what we listen to and watch and read? And what of our kids? When my daughter’s thoughts stop and her body stops and she is still, what comes to her mind? What is she meditating on in that sense?
In Psalm 119 the Psalmist talks about anticipating the night watches “that I may meditate on Your word.” He knows it’s one of the only free times he has. As the stillness settles around him, he can turn his thoughts to what matters most: the truth of God. But how do we do this when our brains are foggy from lack of sleep, our eyes are crossed if they are even open, and we can’t stand the light of our phone screens or the thought of turning on a lamp?
Here are some questions we can ask ourselves to help us figure out what we may need to change so that when our bodies stop, our minds rest on Jesus.
- What are you listening to, reading, watching right before you go to bed? Is it edifying? Is it something you want to replay during the night?
- Do you regularly memorize scripture? Try picking one verse to rehearse each night for a week. You could try memorizing passages this way – one verse at a time. Start with a favorite Psalm. (One of my parenting favorites is Psalm 34.)
- Do you have a favorite worship song? Try to pull that up when other songs start playing on repeat during the night. I know this is easier said than done.
- What are you consuming during the day? If your home is full of music, TV, books on tape, what is the primary message? If your home is primarily quiet (aside from the children, of course, and your running dialogue with yourself – I’m not alone, right?), pay attention to the times you do have music playing or the TV on.
- Why are you awake? Your children are blessings. Even if they do keep you up. Praise God for everything about them from the hair on their head to the toes tucked away in those jammies. Remember your day. Pray about the hard times, thank Him for the good times, pray in preparation for tomorrow.
I hope you will join me in looking at our habits and finding ways to meditate on the Lord in the night watches.
Join the conversation!
What fills your mind when you take the time to slow down? Or in the middle of the night when the cries stop, what do you hear?
What do you want to hear?
What are some practical changes you can make to find your mind resting on Jesus in the night watches?