After a long day, good or bad, I wash my face and brush my teeth. It’s not a complicated or extraordinary routine, but it makes me feel fresh. Like I’m finishing the day how I started. Perfect symmetry.
I look in the mirror, inspect my imperfections and try to move on quickly. Some things just can’t be washed off. Then I turn out the light, walk down the short hallway to my room, set my alarm, turn on some Netflix, lights out.
The past few nights my go-to-sleep movie of choice has been “The Wedding Planner,” mostly because I’ve seen it so many times and it won’t keep me awake. It’s just the right amount of background noise that I can drift off to sleep without an infinite thread of thoughts pervading my ensuing REM cycle.
And normally it works like a charm. My years-tried nightly trick rarely fails me, except when I’m in the midst of some pretty tough stuff. Then it makes sense — sleeplessness is a given.
But tonight I have no such excuse. There’s nothing that’s happened to me lately — no breakups, no fresh hurt, no extreme pain — no reason for my trusty Netflix lullaby to prove futile.
Even though Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Lopez have just realized who the other is and are reluctantly facing off, ballroom dance style, here I am. Lying in my comfy bed. In the midst of my pillow fort. Tired, but thinking.
And I’m mad. How dare my brain do this to me! I’ve been fighting off a migraine all day — and putting in a valiant effort, if I do say so myself — and I’ve finally made it to an acceptable bedtime. (I absolutely refuse to even try to fall asleep before 10:15. Why? No idea. It doesn’t have to be rational.) Yet here I am, ready for sleep, but with a string of nonsense thoughts running through my head.
It’d be one thing if the thoughts were light-hearted, like “What house would I be in at Hogwarts?” or “Where/when would I go if I had a time machine?” Then I could definitively and quickly answer “Gryffindor” (obvi) and “straight into Mr. Darcy’s arms as he walks across that glorious field in the morning light” (again, obvi). There might be a slight debate about whether I’m really courageous enough to be in Gryffindor, but if I find myself lacking then I feel no shame about being sorted right into Ravenclaw. Done and done.
But no. The thoughts are heavy. Like a summary slideshow of relationship mistakes on shuffle. Details that I haven’t thought about in months, years are suddenly slamming against my mind, demanding that I remember how I felt in each instance. Decisions that I’ve made peace with, accepted and moved on from are showing in HD in my mental IMAX.
This has been happening the last few nights, with seemingly no trigger to explain why they’ve recently surfaced. Is this God trying to teach me something or Satan trying to bury me in the past?
Sometimes it’s really hard to discern where my thoughts are coming from. Is it healthy introspection or detrimental regret? Am I simply remembering the events that have shaped me or am I on a road to bitterness?
The answer: I’m not really sure. And that’s ok. It’s ok to not always have an answer, a solution. If I did, how would I remember my massive need for God?
All I know is that I am to strive to know Him and allow that knowledge to be the backdrop for every thought on my mind’s reel. So as I lie here, wide awake in the wee hours of the morning, I ask myself: Is there something You want me learn from these particular thoughts, Lord? Should I ask forgiveness from someone? Will what I went through help someone else?
Tomorrow I will wake up — grumpy and puffy-eyed, to be sure — and probably still have no idea why these thoughts are the source of my sleeplessness. And when that happens, I’ll do my best to be thankful. Any thought that reminds me of my need for my Savior is worth the measly sacrifice of a few hours of sleep.