The other night I went to a sushi restaurant with some friends. We rode a motorboat across the lake to a giant floating raft that housed the restaurant. We were ushered into a long rectangular room where we sat on low benches. Japanese waitresses in colorful flowing gowns walked quietly among the tables filling plates from kettles they carried on towel draped arms. I looked down the table and realized I didn’t actually know anyone there. The whole experience suddenly took on a “Hotel California” feel. And I don’t even like that song.
“What is this?” I asked, pointing to a platter that looked like a halved avocado covered in fish eggs. They answered, but I couldn’t understand what they were saying. Not because they were speaking Japanese; that would make sense. It sounded more like pidgin or Old English or something that was almost comprehensible. But not quite. It was at that point that I realized the bench I was sitting on was actually a trapeze. Yes, a trapeze. I was hoisted into the air and began careening around the room, smashing my feet into the stucco walls hoping to slow myself down. Each time I hit, I only seemed to pick up speed. I hurled back through the crowded tables with people and bowls of food parting before me. Flakes of stucco cracked off the walls as I rebounded. (Someone was going to have to completely spackle that room by the time I was done.) The last thing I remember was the terrified look on some newcomer’s face as I barely missed her head and found myself clinging, bat-like, to the corner of the wall.
Then I woke up.
Perhaps I should have started this blog post with a disclaimer. Earlier this week I was having back spasms and was given muscle relaxers and pain killers that had me sleeping 19+ hours a day for four days straight. Then my doctor cut me off. The four days were rather uneventful, at least, as far as I recall. (If any of you told me something important earlier this week, you better tell me again.) The return to non-drug induced sleep, however, has been a bit more memorable. Not only am I having crazy dreams about eating sushi while on a flying trapeze, I wake up feeling as though I have been eating sushi while on a flying trapeze: pounding headache, churning stomach, sore muscles and all.
The other morning I woke up at 3 a.m. I am typically not a nocturnal wanderer, but this night I needed a break from the crazy dreams. I slipped from bed and made some toast and tea. I pulled a Bible Study from my shelf that a friend had given me but which I hadn’t had time to use. I read about Psalm 120:1 In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me.
He answered me.
You know, people talk about having a personal relationship with Jesus. I don’t always know what this means. When I first became a Christian, it sounded a bit too… religious. Sometimes I would just smile and nod and step away. Except that in the last couple of years, I’ve seen it. I’ve seen people that do have a relationship with Jesus. They have that hope about which Peter says we should always be ready to give a testimony (1 Peter 3:15). They aren’t just Christians. They are truly friends of God. They have a relationship that makes me say: I want what they have.
Don’t get me wrong. I have a relationship with God. But it is qualitatively different than where I am headed. I talk to God all the time. What I don’t do very well is wait for His answer. “Okay, God,” I say, “Here are all the things I’m thinking about today. Got it? Okay. Catch you later.” And I’m off.
In my distress I call to the Lord. But I’m completely missing His answer.
Until He sits me down at 3 a.m. with a cup of tea.
I learned from my 3 a.m. study that the word translated as Lord in Psalm 120:1 is the Hebrew word Yahweh, which refers to God’s nature as a covenant maker and covenant keeper. This makes the words of Psalm 120:1 that much more powerful to me. The Lord answered the Psalmist and He answers us because He is the God who keeps His promises. Promises like, I will not leave you nor forsake you (Joshua 1:5). Promises like, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). Promises like, I have called you friends (John 15:15).
We can be more than Christians. We can actually have a relationship with God. We can be a friend of God. Have you ever paused to look beyond the jargon and think about what this means?
If not, a 3 a.m. cup of tea is a great place to start.
In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me (Psalm 120:1).