by Pringle Franklin
PARIS—An old conflict reared its weary head again this week in our marriage. It comes down to the fact that I can paddle through a day on six to seven hours of sleep while my husband needs, in his words, “at least eight”.
We have battled over this before because I like to get up early every day to pray. How early? Six-thirty. I remind Sam that milkmen and bakers get up far earlier, but that gets me nowhere with him when he is cranky.
In truth, the trouble really lies on the lights-out end. Left to my own natural habits, I would go to bed between 11:45 p.m. and midnight. This late bedtime allows me to wile away pleasant hours after the last dish is washed, the last load of laundry is folded, the last page of my French homework is completed, and the last child is tucked safely into his cozy cot (single beds are small here).
Almost every night, Sam climbs into his side of the bed to read around 10 p.m. Many nights he is floating off into the first stages of sleep by the time I appear in the bedchamber. No matter how stealth my movements in peeling back the bed covers, no matter how quietly I glide under the top sheet, my entry into the smaller-than-queen bed causes him to toss, turn, and grumble. Likewise, it ruptures his sleep bubble when I get up in the morning — even though I shush my alarm within seconds and bump around in the dark to avoid disturbing Sam with a glaring light.
This week things reached a crescendo because Sam felt especially tired and was nursing resentment toward my spiritual devotion. He told me to stop praying in the morning or start sleeping on the sofa.
Now, he knows good and well that I have tried praying at different times of day to accommodate his sleep, yet the early morning shift is simply the slot that works. After about five years of daily prayer at first light, I cannot function well without it. This womb of prayer sticks with me throughout the day, and it is how I live and move and have my being.
Yet Sam made it clear: he was not giving up the right to eight hours of sleep. I knew I was not giving up prayer, and also that I was not moving out onto the sofa. And of course I did not want to cause Sam stress or make him tired and angry. I am a nice wife, really. I want him to be happy.
My brain turned this way and that, until an idea emerged. It was a bit confining for my fluid personality, but it was the only solution that presented itself so I decided I would just have to bend into rigidity. I proposed this to Sam: I would set my alarm for eight hours later than the time I had gone to sleep. Therefore, if I elected to stay up until midnight reading, then I would not set my alarm before 8 a.m. This satisfied the tired man. He was guaranteed that I would not blare an alarm before eight full hours had passed.
For me, it was an unpleasant and probably much-needed call for more self discipline. If I was going to continue to honor my 6:30 a.m. prayer time, then I had to be in bed with my light out at 10:30 p.m. That would require working toward that goal every evening with intention and deliberation. Bye-bye, Facebook. You just got bumped.
The first night, I was able to get in bed by 10:40 p.m. This was close enough to my target, and all went well. I got up the next morning in time to pray, and Sam felt rested. He was chipper when he came into the kitchen for his cup of coffee. However, the following night, we had gone out to a music concert at school. The series of events for the entire evening was pushed back by an hour. By the time I was able to crawl into bed, it was 11:40 p.m.
Life had caught me in its trap, and it was too late! That night I did not bother even setting my alarm. Sam’s rings at 7:15 a.m. The best part of my prayer time is the silent slice between 6:30 a.m. and 7:15 a.m., when it is just me and the Lord and the car noises down in the streets, before others are up and our small apartment begins reverberating with the sounds of slippers shuffling on the hardwood, the toilet flushing, the sink running, the music playing, the cat meowing for her kibbles.
If I don’t get up before my household, the household closes in on me. I had missed my targeted bedtime, yet I would not break my word to my husband. When I closed my eyes, I asked the Lord to help me wake up without an alarm. This is not asking for a miracle; many times I will wake up a few seconds before the alarm goes off because my body is used to the schedule.
The next morning, without any outside noises, I found myself awake in the semi-darkness. I glanced at the clock: it was 6:29 a.m. In theory, I had another whole minute to sleep. Those last precious 60 seconds can be the sweetest of restful moments, and my heavy lids slid shut quickly. I was teetering back toward returning to a sound sleep — and missing my prayer appointment — when suddenly, I heard the alarm screaming.
Soon I comprehended that a police siren was screeching somewhere in the neighborhood. The frantic siren got me up and moving and yet Sam slept right through it. I was laughing inwardly at God’s sense of humor. Per my agreement, I had not been able to set an alarm, so the Lord had sent one instead. And being God, he knew exactly how to awaken me while allowing Sam to slumber.
This small miracle reconfirmed something that I had discovered some years ago: God desires to spend quality time with his children. And he will give us help in finding the discipline and the means to meet with him for daily prayer. Left to our own frail devices, we might fail, but we are not left to stand on our own. He can provide the perfect way because, after all, he owns the whole universe.
photos courtesy of Vkek111 on Flickr.