The hospital at night is a quiet place. Gone are the doctors making decisions and sending folk off for tests. The ward managers are not writing letters and making calls. All the heart patients are resting.
Many guys go to sleep early. Some folk are agitating to turn the lights off at 9pm. Thankfully the last drugs round isn’t til 10 so for us night owls we are not forced to go to bed in the middle of the evening. Personally, I usually turn the lights off around midnight and really struggle if I try to sleep before 11pm.
The nurses, of course, are wide awake. They’re answering calls when patients ring for help in double quick time, so as to not wake up those who are asleep. They are doing observations and taking the blood pressure of those whose tickers are either too fast or too slow. The darkness of the ward is restful, sleepy.
I wonder if I’d have made a better disciple than Peter, James and John? They seemed unable to stay awake at night despite Jesus asking them to stay up with him and pray. I am a night owl after all.
But they’d had a long day. A walk in from Bethany. A big meal followed by a somewhat intense teaching time with Jesus. Thinking about it, it’s hardly surprisjng they couldn’t stay awake. On reflection, I’m pretty sure I’d be snoring with the best of them.
Darkness is a strange thing. Sometimes I find it peaceful. In our frenetic world, in the darkness of night there is often a rare silence. Our world is different from Bible times in many ways. If you have no light you couldn’t go places back then, like the five bridesmaids who ran out of oil. Darkness was seen as a time for shady dealings.
I’m not the only one to find silence reassuring. Simon & Garfunkel released their first hit ‘The Sound of Silence‘ in the 1960s. The first line starts
Hello darkness, my old friend, I’ve come to talk to you again… Paul Simon
Apparently Paul Simon would go into his bathroom as a young man, turn on the taps and sit in the dark to play his guitar. It helped him to think creatively.
In the small hours of the morning, Jesus did not welcome the darkness and the solitude. He wanted others around him, his friends, as he contemplated the darkness of the cross.
Darkness & Silence. Aloneness or Peace? In the end, Jesus was strengthened to face the Cross in the Garden of Gethsemane. He did endure. Maybe the aloneness and the peace are not so far apart. The strength in solitude in the darkness.
St John of the Cross talks about The Dark Night of the Soul in a poem of the same name. That our journey towards God is sometimes shrouded in darkness. We can walk towards mystical union with God without seeing all clearly. The only light in this dark night is that which burns in the soul. And that is a guide more certain than the mid-day sun.
So as we step with Jesus towards the Cross all is stripped away. No more anointing. No more feasting. No more support of friends. Just the dark night. My hospital ward is reassuringly noisy at times. There are people awake and making us safe.
If your dark night feels completely alone, may Christ be your guide.