Three O’clock in the Morning


I was on vacation in Montana. I had just come off a busy church year, culminating in Annual Conference in Fort Collins, Colorado, where I served my first session as Conference Secretary.


I was tired and needed rest. It was granted to me unexpectedly when my eye became inflamed. I had to go to the emergency room in Helena three times and had to spend hours in the ophthalmologist’s office. When I wasn’t in the hospital or the doctor’s office I slept. I must have needed it.


The latter part of our stay in Helena, after my eye got better, we camped in my daughter Beth’s yard. We have a wonderful tent, a nine by nine Eureka, so it wasn’t bad sleeping outside on cots.


But tent walls are not like the walls of a house. For some reason, sirens in Helena went off all day long. It was hard to shut out the wails with the thin tent walls. At that time of the year in Montana, it’s light till ten o’clock or so. Cars go by all evening long and on into the night–kids cruising the drag with stereos booming loud.


One morning I got up at 3 o’clock. All was quiet, except for our dog Ipolani snoring on her blanket on the tent floor. All over town, people had gone to bed somewhere. It was then I thought of the American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. In his essay “The Crackup,” he wrote, “In the real dark night of the soul, it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day.” What did he mean, I wondered, by “the real dark night of the soul?” Were some dark nights not “real?” Was this my dark night?


Time passed. At 3:15 or so robins and other birds began to chirrup and sing. The first sounds of the new day…stirring in the darkness in the voices of the birds, the Good Shepherd had come to me. A new day was cycling through, a new beginning. I began to think that Fitzgerald was wrong. God’s grace comes to us again and again, day after day. We don’t have to do anything about it. It’s just there.


An hour or so later, the sun had come up, and I thought, “What a wimp Fitzgerald was! What a whiner!” as I became the sounds of the new day.


We may be wounded. We may find ourselves walking with the wounded of this life. But if we choose to follow him, Jesus will not let us get stuck, as F. Scott Fitzgerald did in the silence of his dark night. He did not know what to do with the fifteen minutes of solitude God blesses us with at 3 o’clock in the morning.


That solitude is God’s renewing spirit stirring in us, recreating us anew, so that we may again go forth into the world in joy and hope.