The alarm clock buzzes—too early for our liking. "Another day,another dollar," groans a businessman overwhelmed by his debts and struggles for survival.
Kids splash through cold cereal on their way to school, snatching books and dashing out the door to torment the teacher or survive another boring lecture.
The rooster crows across the street. With the shaft of light penetrating the dismal cellar apartment, it's morning. Another day.
We forget that we constantly live in reverse; we go backwards through life. Day doesn't begin with the sun's early light or the brass sounding over the ramparts, but in the still of the evening. "And God saw the light, that it ws good: and God divided the light from darkness. And God called the light Day and the drkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day." Genesis 1:4-5
Society begins with a rush. We start chaotically searching for a way to open the first moves of the day: we rush into our cars only to park in the giant parking-lot called the highway; shove into the metro like sardines on the way to the packing plant and crowd up the escalators like doomed fish up ladders.
No way to start any day. Instead why not start the day the way God created – with the evening, beginning with a prayer of comfort and assurance for rest?
"Grant, O Lord that we lie down in peace
with the reassurance of tommorrow secure in your protective love.
Protect us beneath your wings as the mother hen protects her chicks
and guard us through the night.
Nuture us with your all-compassing love
and grant us healing in our sleep.
Refresh us as we come to life again with the brightness of the dawn."
How much different would life be, if we began with rest. Instead of being addled and defensive, we could meet challenges without having our feathers ruffled or hissing like ostriches.
Real rest, comes not from sleep, but from peaceful reassurance that our lives will be protected from the lurking dangers without. A child suffering from rejection or abuse is restless with anxiety, curled up in a tight pretzel in its bed, ever aware of the tormentors waiting just outside his dreams. The torment lurks within also, disturbing his dreams with nightmares, recalling situations where escape was impossible. Haunted internally and tormented externally, his life becomes a living hell without compassionate reassurance.
"Don't worry, be happy," must be the most abusive words I know. Negating another's hardship or suffering denies that person's right to existence. Who are you to tell anyone not to worry when you don't know the lurking anxiety preying on the person's life or the horrifying experiences locked inside? What happened yesterday or four years ago compounds the problems of today as no one lends a compassionate hand or reaches out to comfort the afflicted. Lay down in peace? When every night is a waking nightmare of someone breaking through the windows or being trapped in an alley to be sexually assaulted? Lay down in peace when the university sends its computer-generated statements refusing to accept the doctor's medical statements and bills for emergency exploratory surgery for cancer? Peace?
The hypocritical blessing of the religious who never have time to listen and who preach that God does. How can God listen when people don't? How can there be peace or rest unless those who watch do more than watch-- until they show compassion. For those alone, there is too much work and anxiety as they struggle to bear the burdens that community and family should share. They are really alone, facing hardships and illness in solitary isolation whether the announcement declaring a possible tumor at the base of the brain or the horrors of a colostomy. In agony, they struggle to deal with fractured shoulders and worn-out kidneys overburdened by years of illness and fatigue. They know the sanctity of rest, searching for it daily, relieved to lay down their burdens from the day, ever praying: "Allow me this night the agony cease from my back and my eyes sleep. Grant me, O God, a peaceful death and embrace my soul with your eternal love. "
They yearn ever for eternal rest—they need no rewards, no harps or hallelujahs. Life has brought enough noise and chaos, that truly their hearts seek only rest.
Spread over us, your tent of peace
and keep us within your unending grace.