It was a gift—a relaxing camping trip with my family. We had unplugged, played, napped, laughed, read books, and connected. Heavenly, but it couldn’t possibly last forever. Now it was back to reality.
Our family’s “reality” includes my husband returning to his usual midnight shift job, with a Wed-Sun work week. It was Wednesday evening; in anticipation of his first night back to work, he laid down for his usual nap. After a hot summer day, the heat still lingered into the evening. My 3 boys were buzzing around, indoors and out, playing with their neighborhood friends. Doors were opening and closing loudly, the outside water faucet creaking on…and off…and back on. I heard muffled squeals of excitement outdoors as I felt the rush of the cool A/C on my bare toes.
Then came a familiar wave of panic. Like an unwelcome visitor, it plopped itself down in front of me and I was forced to acknowledge it. I didn’t have to ask what prompted this feeling because I already knew. It was the dread of being my husband’s “sleep gatekeeper.” That’s what I call it, anyway.
I’ve always seen myself as the sole person responsible for his sleep quality, quantity, and therefore general health. In my mind, everything hinges on him getting quality rest, something that evades most midnight-shifters. When your husband struggles to meet his daily sleep needs, AND you have 3 active boys and a very vocal dog, the struggle to maintain a quiet house is exactly that, a struggle.
Midnight shift is counter-intuitive to human nature, offering up persistent fatigue, absent-mindedness (we call it “third shift brain”), and low vitamin D levels. Those who work these hours take on an increased risk for heart disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, and cognitive decline. As a wife, I’m keenly aware of the fact that the most dangerous part of my husband’s work day (despite being a police officer) is his drowsy drive home after shift. To keep the house quiet during the day, I alter my laundry and vacuuming schedules, whether I park my car in the garage or out, and ration my trips in and out of my bedroom while he’s sleeping. I pack what I need each day, and live out of our guest bathroom to avoid waking him. (Many times I’ve forgotten crucial “items” and have had to improvise.) It isn’t easy, or normal, but it’s how we’ve done life for over half of his 16-year career.
This particular Wednesday evening as the noise ensued and the panic came knocking, I realized that my physical response to our reality was second-nature, and had been for quite some time. I felt the anxiety wash over me; choking back tears, I felt hopeless and stuck. I didn’t want to do this anymore; I longed for the blissful normalcy that we had tasted on vacation! I was weary.
Do you have weary moments? The kind where there is no end in sight and you don’t have it in you anymore to endure?
I asked God for comfort and a Word. Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28. When I studied this verse in Greek, I learned that weary means “exhausted (with toil or burdens or grief)” and rest means “to refresh; to cause one to cease from any movement or labor in order to recover and collect his strength; and to keep quiet, of calm and patient expectation.” This kind of rest can only refresh when it is given from above. I can’t achieve the full measure on my own. Anything I try to do for myself is temporary, at best.
When there is no light at the end of the tunnel, it can feel impossible. Enduring for as long as we must requires trust. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7. We can trust Him to take our burdens and lighten our loads and we can trust Him to strengthen us to endure anything that we face. In this verse we also have the promise that it won’t last forever! That summer evening, I needed to rest in these reminders.
I don’t have all of the answers, and I have my share of tears and fears. All I know is that when I go to Jesus and cast my anxieties, somehow miraculously, I’m able to get up the next day and do it all again. The same can be true for you. Hang in there…think action verbs: come, trust, and cast. You will find rest for your weary soul.