At 5 am, if you walk toward the chapel along the hall on the north side of the hospital, you can see a little pink in the sky. A little. As long as it’s five days before the solstice.
At 5 am, you still have two hours on duty, and a bit more. At 5 am, someone’s heart can still stop. Someone’s car can still crash. But you know that someone else is coming soon with fresh energy to offer compassion and comfort. You can offer all your attention without having to pace yourself the way you do at the beginning of the night shift.
You have a little surge of hope that you can make it to morning.
And you get a glimpse of passionate waiting for God.
Psalm 130 is a cry for God’s presence, God’s action, God’s mercy. In words familiar to anyone who walks near pain and perseverance, the writer gives us a way to speak our requests. And then says, “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.”
That sounds like passive church language. “It’s okay. No worries. I’m trusting.” Until we read the bridge, the phrase that puts a frame around the faith: “More than watchmen wait for the morning.”
At 5 m, with two more hours and not enough sleep, these words about waiting for the Lord aren’t about complacency or denial or blissful spirituality. They are said with the determination and resignation of the watchman holding on til relief comes, believing it will come soon, knowing that it will be just in time, facing the fatigue and fear and darkness.
Third shift people often lack seniority to get on the good shift. But I think they are the brave ones. Waiting with faithfulness for the light to dawn.