I read an article this morning as I was scanning the news. It was about the 3am issue. That unsettling time of night when we wake, all alone with the darkness and our thoughts, and face the hard truths of who we 'know' ourselves to be.
It's at this time of night that our thoughts often spiral into negativity. We worry, we stress, we reimagine conversations and mistakes, and all the positive self talk we bolster ourselves up with during the day feels suddenly shallow and fake.
3am isn't fun.
But although I appreciated the author's helpful explanation of the reasons why we wake at this time, and why our thoughts so often turn negative, there was a line in his argument that I couldn't rest with. It was about the way our thoughts at 3am often turn in on ourselves and circle around the notion of ourselves. He said 'Buddhism has a strong position on this type of mental activity: the self is a fiction, and that fiction is the source of all distress.' Drawing on this idea he suggested mindful meditation as a way to deal with 3am stress.
But here's my problem with this quick fix solution: those things that stir up at 3am? They are not based on fiction.
No matter how badly we may want to imagine our lives as being untrue, we live them day in and night out. We feel it, we breathe it, we ache, we break, we stuff up, we forgive and then realise we have to forgive all over again. The hurt circles, the blame lingers, the mess we've made of our lives rises up at 3am with stark ugly confidence and telling ourselves we aren't real? Nah. That takes far too much mindfulness for me to muster at that time of night.
What I need is a God who will step into my darkness and hold those things I can't quite explain. I need a Saviour who sees my failing and still says I'm worth it. I need a deep, mystery of restoration that doesn't expect me to simply get through my heartbreaking 3ams, but joins me in them. Gently re-aligning my perspectives, giving me courage to try again and offering hope that something beautiful might come out of the garbage heap I've made of life.
The only real answer to my 3am issue is Christ. Because even in the darkest parts of my night, he is light.
And at 3am, when it's just me and my thoughts, that's the only thing worth ruminating on.
(You can read Greg Murray's article here.)
The Penny Drops
In high school I used to write what I'd call 'thinks' - little bits of writing about whatever topic or issue I was mulling over at the time. I still write these little pieces.
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