I wasn’t planning to do another blog post this weekend, but it is very early on a Saturday morning, I’ve been awake for hours, and since I can’t sleep anyway, I decided to write. Which brings me to the subject of this post.
I’m so tired. For the first time in my life I am going through an extended period of insomnia. Here is the way I spend most nights. Exhausted at the end of the day, I fall asleep almost immediately. I wake up after two or three hours’ slumber, however, and I simply cannot get back to sleep. I toss and turn for an hour or so. Then I get up and read until I think I am sleepy, but as soon as I lie down and turn out the light, I am wide awake again. I get up again, do my Morning Prayers, perhaps listen to some music or read a few selections from the hymnal. By this time, the first crimson glow of dawn is breaking on the eastern horizon, and I am finally about to fall asleep in my chair. Of course, on most days, I don’t have the luxury of going back to bed at that hour, so I do my ablutions, get dressed, and head into a day during which I know that I will say, a dozen times or more, “I’m so tired.”
I know that I am not alone. If we can believe the press reports, much of the American population is sleep-deprived, and many people live their lives in a zombie-like state brought on by excessive tiredness. My generation, the “boomers,” have even given this phenomenon a name: chronic fatigue syndrome. While health-care professionals debate whether the symptoms warrant classification as a legitimate medical disorder, there is no denying that lots of people feel worn-out most of the time.
My guess is that our lifestyles and our culture contribute mightily to this trend. We simply have too much to do. There are simply too many demands on our time, too many activities in which we need to be involved, or at least think we do. And on top of work and family responsibilities and the things we feel we have to do, no previous generation has been confronted with so many kinds of “leisure” and recreational activities. So our waking hours are given over, not only to obligations and responsibilities, but to the ever-expanding menu of things that are fun and cool… and exhausting.
So, I’m not the only person to complain about being tired. In fact, way back in 1968, John Lennon wrote a song, which the Beatles recorded, called… wait for it… “I’m So Tired.” The song was about unrequited love (what else?) which produced insomnia resulting in the lament, “I’m so tired.” The final line of the chorus was particularly plaintive: “You know I’d give you everything I’ve got for a little peace of mind.”
My insomnia is not the product of unrequited love. Nor is it the sole, or even the main, cause of the persistent tiredness which has plagued me for months. You see, I’m not just tired, in a generic sense. I’m tired of some things, because of some things.
I’m tired of waiting for God to do something… to change my circumstances, to give me some clear direction for my ministry, to bring some people into my life who will share my vision and help to bring it to reality, to provide the material resources we need to meet our expenses, both personal and in relation to our ministry.
I am not a hyperactive personality. I enjoy solitude and reflection. I do not need always to be doing something. Some of the wisest and most fruitful decisions I have made have come out of extended periods of reflection, meditation, and “waiting on God.” I would have made a good monk.
Or maybe not. I may be a contemplative at heart, but there comes a time when I want, or perhaps need, to act on the fruit of my contemplation. To put into practice what I have carefully considered during my time of reflection and meditation. I don’t need to be doing something all the time, but I do need to be doing something some of the time. And it seems it has been so long since I have used my gifts in a genuinely substantive way, in a particular setting, for an extended period of time. Some days I fear that God has put me on a shelf, and the next time He takes me off the shelf will be to call me home to heaven.
One of my college professors used to say that we do not waste time while we wait on God. He also said that, if we are awaiting “marching orders” from God, we should not be troubled about doing nothing until the orders arrive. And how many times lately have I heard some version of this aphorism: “Don’t be eager to do something and then ask God to bless it. Wait until You see what God is doing and then join it.”
All of that counsel to wait was fine when I was thirty-five and the waiting periods were seldom more than a few weeks’ or months’ duration. But I’m now sixty-two years old, and I’ve been waiting for things to change for nearly four years. I’m doing what I have always done in situations like this—I’m waiting, I’m reading, I’m praying, I’m consulting wise counselors. Forty years ago, God told me to follow this pattern. He said, in effect, “I called you, I gave you the gifts you need to serve Me. Now you sharpen those gifts and make yourself available. I’ll provide the opportunity for you to use those gifts, and, when the time is right for a particular ministry, I’ll open the door.”
So, that’s what I’m doing. In response to God’s direction, I used my time “on the shelf” to prepare for Anglican Holy Orders. I was commissioned to plant a church, and although the movement in that direction is incremental, there does seem to be some movement. I only wish it could be more. Because I’m not getting any younger. And I honestly believe that the persistent weariness and near-malaise which characterize my circumstances would dissipate if only I could move a bit more vigorously toward a clear and definable goal.
Still, God is faithful. I’ve had a good life. I’ve served the Lord and the Kingdom with all of my energy and resources for four decades. Maybe I needed some “shelf time” more than I realized. And maybe the shelf is, for me, the vestibule to heaven. I certainly hope not. I truly believe there is more for me to do. I know, however, that the work of the Kingdom will proceed whether or not I ever get “back in the harness.” But I would truly love to be back in the harness for a few more years. For now, though, I continue to wait. And I am so tired.