Thursday, June 19, 2014

confessions of a non-morning person

Image by Jim Davis. Found on pinterest.com
I have been following a post by a colleague (whom I have never met but we have mutual friends and are both studying theology) in which he writes about his efforts to change into a functioning morning person, mostly out of necessity due to being a parent and a writer (his words). I am not a parent so I will not comment on the challenges that children present to sleep and work patterns, but I do a fair bit of writing and find myself chafing at the assumption that disciplined and successful writers do their best work in the early morning.  I am not sure that such a generalization is true or helpful.

It seems to me that there is a bit of prejudice against late-night functioning people. We can be viewed as somewhat lazy, undisciplined, still lingering in that teenage/student phase of staying up late and sleeping in late. Similar to the subtle disdain for introverts that our Western culture exhibits (social skills are highly valued), late night-ers are generally not championed as leaders, go-getters, or entrepreneurs who will change the world. And that is sad. Let us not forget all the roles which require late night alertness: medical professionals, emergency responders, truck drivers, musicians, construction workers, hydro-electric repairmen, security personnel, office cleaners, chefs, and members of the police force (to name just a few).

I am thankful that not everyone in the world is an extrovert (how loud would that be?) and that not everyone is a morning person (who would explore the wonders of the stars or watch over our cities as we sleep?). It brings variety and balance to the universe. However, having a dominant trait or being a certain type of person is not an excuse for selfishness or rigidity. At times I am called upon to function as an extrovert: to be friendly, chatty, outgoing, and hospitable. And this is good for me; it helps me develop character, compassion, and discipline. However, the cost is high. It requires more emotional, intellectual, and volitional energy than when I operate within my preferred/inherent role. Therefore, it is important for me to be aware of the cost and make sure I have adequate resources and the time and space to replenish them afterwards.  The same goes for early mornings. This past term I taught a university class at 8:45 am. I actually surprised myself at how well I could function at that time of day, but I was also aware that it was pretty taxing, much more than teaching an afternoon or evening class. I was able to function well because I came prepared, I gave myself a good amount of time for thought and contemplation before heading into the classroom, and I made sure I had a good meal and some downtime afterwards.

Perhaps I am not the only late-night person who has read those Psalms about early morning prayer and felt slightly guilty (Psalm 5:3 for example). Does God want me to get up at sunrise to pray? Does it make me a more devoted follower of Jesus if I read my Bible before 8 am? I don’t think so. Just as both early morning and late night work take discipline, so both early morning and late night prayers require that we bring our whole selves before God. Psalm 4 is a night prayer which extols the provision of God and the ability to sleep in peace because of God’s faithfulness. The daily examen, an Ignatian prayer exercise which seeks to discern the presence of God in the events of the day, is done right before one falls asleep. Psalm 127 talks about the folly of both early mornings and late nights when they are motivated by self-effort instead of reliance on God. In the end, whether we are early risers or late night-ers, the issue is not what side of the clock we prefer, but whom we trust, cling to, and rely on. Let Jesus be Lord of every hour, both waking and sleeping. Let us embrace our natural, creative rhythms with joy and abandon them when we need to for the sake of love. With God all things are possible.

"Unless the Eternal builds the house, those who labor to raise it will have worked for nothing. Unless the Eternal stands watch over the city, those who guard it have wasted their time. God provides for His own. It is pointless to get up early, work hard, and go to bed late, anxiously laboring for food to eat; for God provides for those He loves, even while they are sleeping."
Psalm 127:1-2, The Voice


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