It’s June, which means my 2015/2016 school year planner–the one with big polka dots that I bought on a whim at the Dollar Tree last summer–is almost out of pages. Even so, I sat down with it (and with my husband) the other night to jot down the dates of when he’ll be traveling this summer for work. It turns out that his confirmed trip out of town will be longer than I expected, and there are 2 more potential work trips in the planning stages. Quite a few days have I marked “MIKE GONE.”
When my husband goes out of town, I struggle with sleep each night he is away. I lived by myself for a few years before getting married, and I spent weeks alone in my apartment overseas after college when my roommate traveled. I didn’t mind sleeping alone in those places, but now that I have two young children, the situation feels completely different. I know the responsibility rests squarely on my shoulders for keeping them safe in the event something were to go wrong while my husband isn’t home. Over the years, as Mike has traveled for ministry to Turkey and Korea and Thailand and Panama, the Lord has taught me to rest, instructed me to lie down and sleep trusting that He will rise and protect me–trusting, as well, that He never promised I would be exempt from emergencies or break-ins, but He DID promise always to be with me. Resting on these truths has made it possible for me to sleep while Mike is away, but I still wrestle with it every single time.
What makes this struggle more challenging is that something strange and unwelcome happens almost every time he goes away. Once, during a conference Mike attended in Canada, I had loaded our boys into the car for a trip to the library. While waiting at a stoplight, a man in a big, loud pick-up truck next to us leaned out his window, caught my eye and then proceeded to mime shoving a ripe banana in and out of his mouth. I quickly averted my eyes, looking away from his smirk and that bright yellow fruit. His ridiculous, insulting actions–seriously, dude?–annoyed me, but they also frightened me. I was to be home alone for a week, remember? I tried to make sure I drove more slowly than the truck driver so he couldn’t see my license plate. I never actually expected it, but I did wonder if it would be possible for him to use my license plate information to find me and our home and leave a banana on my door mat. That never happened, but I can’t pretend I wasn’t at least a little shaken by his performance.
Another time, after being up very early the morning before with a sick child, I was enjoying a night of precious sleep (Mike was visiting friends in Virginia) when I heard loud, insistent banging on our front door at a little before 3 AM. I emerged from the depths of slumber to hear this noise, and it just grew louder, more forceful, almost angry. I got up from bed but waited upstairs in the hall, paralyzed and wondering what would happen. A few more knocks, then the person left. An hour later, I fell back asleep.
Last year, Mike attended a friend’s wedding on the other side of the country. And I stayed up a little too late, avoiding bedtime on purpose with a good book. Then I awoke at 4:48 AM, unsure of what woke me. And I couldn’t fall back asleep. In the past, I probably would have silently berated myself for letting random, unimportant thoughts distract me from rest–thoughts with no more purpose than the careful eye make-up I applied once before going to a Saturday of my children’s soccer games, and then I didn’t take off my sunglasses even one time. I might have insisted that I quit messing around with the fruitless chatter in my brain and just go back to sleep. But, strangely enough, I have found that never works–I have never successfully berated myself into doing anything well. So I just lay there, at peace with knowing the morning would come and my children would need breakfast and a new day would begin.
Later this summer, I’ll have to lay down my burdens again so I can lay down and sleep. Truthfully, I probably won’t sleep well during those nights Mike’s away. But I’ll try to be gentle with myself again, understanding my weakness and trusting God to make up for my lack.
“…For he grants sleep to those he loves.”–Psalm 127: 2