Listening...in the middle of the night.
Although you hear often from parents about the exhaustion and lack of sleep in the first year of your little one’s life, you can’t really know how you will feel until you are in the midst of it. And when you finally have a good sleeper and you are lulled into the false sense of security that your baby will sleep through the night and then they regress and wake up many times in the night, it is like the world is ending and you think you will never be able to function again! A couple of weeks ago, our 6 month old son, Micah, got hit with the plague that has been going around. He had an entire night of a fever and chills and wouldn’t let us put him down, so Jeff and I took hour-long shifts all night long to hold him and comfort him. When the sun rose and Micah’s fever finally broke, we thought we had gotten through the worst of it. All we had to do was get through one really hard day on no sleep, get to the bedtime routine, put him down and he would sleep through the night and we would reset and all would be right in the world!
But obviously, babies are complex human beings and don’t always do exactly what we want them to do. Micah’s fever may have broken, but his congestion was still lingering, he was still not feeling well, and he just wanted the comfort of mom and dad. So we got to his bedtime routine (with some help from my mom who came over throughout the day to help us function with a sick baby) and we worked REALLY hard to rock him to sleep, we laid him down in his crib, tip toed out, slipped into bed and just as we started to doze off from the extreme exhaustion of not sleeping for 24 hours, the loud cry over the monitor pulled us out of the bliss of sleep. And this happened over and over and over from 7:00pm-1:00am.
I love to sleep. One of the scariest parts of becoming a parent for me was having to surrender my love of sleep. And here I was, pushed to my limit of exhaustion, desperate for sleep but not able to force my son to give me sleep, so I began to pray. And each time we were woken up, the prayers became more desperate and frustrated and ridiculous. “We are so tired, Lord. Please hear us. Please make this baby go to sleep! Why aren’t you listening to me! Why aren’t you just supernaturally forcing this baby to sleep for 8 hours? I know you can do it! Do you not care? Can you not hear me?”
Then when those prayers weren’t working, I started shouting scripture at God. “You tell me to ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you and so I am doing this! I am asking, I am seeking, I am knocking! I am standing at your door, knocking and screaming as loudly as I can to make you make this baby sleep!!!!” In an effort to not seem completely insane, I was doing all of this shouting prayer in my head so Jeff had no idea how crazy I was actually becoming. The longer I prayed, the more desperate and hysterical I became. Can anyone relate to that?
Jeff and I were taking turns going in to rock Micah back to sleep. Although I was screaming silently in my head to God, Jeff could tell I was plunging farther and farther into a hole of discouragement so he got up to take the next go at it. As I was lying in bed, wanting to cry now not only from exhaustion but also from feeling like God had abandoned me and was turning his back on me and would never answer my prayers ever again (I told you I was becoming more and more desperate and delusional), Jeff came back into our room with a complete change of attitude. Where I was spiraling out of control, thinking the world was ending and God had left me and no longer cared about me, Jeff was in a place of peace and calm. He started talking about how grateful he was for our son. He had renewed energy to wait it out. He had some ideas of how we were going to tackle the rest of the night. This was obviously a shock to me. How was Jeff handling this situation so much better than I was! What could have possibly happened in the 5 minutes he was sitting in the rocking chair with Micah?
As I was screaming at God, Jeff was listening to God. He heard God speak a word of peace and comfort. The Holy Spirit had changed his mind and his heart and gave him what he needed to get through the rest of the night. And then in turn, Jeff was able to care for me. And this shook me out of the place I had gotten to. I was working so hard at shouting at God to do exactly what I thought he should do for me, that I wasn’t able to hear the still small voice of God speak to me. In that moment, I realized that God wanted to do more in my heart than just give me the superficial thing I was asking for. God wanted to remind me that his grace is sufficient for me. That he will sustain me. That he is shaping me and growing me and breaking me down in order to make me more like Jesus.
Micah still isn’t sleeping great the last couple of weeks. And to be honest, I have had a few moments of despair and frustration out of my exhaustion, but I have also been quicker in those moments to change how I pray. To pause my prayers of talking (and shouting) at God and to ask God to speak to me in the situation. Is there a place in my heart I need to turn to him? Is there something he wants to do in me or some way he wants to grow me that is bigger than the thing that is right in front of me? Am I resting in his sufficient grace and love? Am I trusting that he cares and that he is with me? I have been trying to more intentionally pause to listen. To ask God to give me ears to hear him speak. And I have found that this act of listening has drastically changed not only how I approach prayer but how I get through whatever is in front of me.
Katie Gayle is a mom to Micah, a wife to Jeff, and a pastor at Wellspring Church in Englewood, Colorado. Her role as the Connecting Pastor brings to light her gifts of hospitality and inclusion. Katie deeply loves the body of Christ, and it is the joy of her life to serve God's church in Englewood.