July 19th, 2005
You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. (1 Thessalonians 5:5-6)
A fifteen-year-old girl in London, England, had what you might call a restless night last month.
A passerby called emergency services in the early morning hours of June 25th when he saw the teenager, who hasn't been named, curled up fast asleep in a construction site. On top of a crane. One hundred and thirty feet off the ground. The girl had apparently walked in her sleep to the construction site, which was a short distance from her home, then climbed the crane, walked across a narrow beam, and laid down on a concrete counterweight. All without ever waking up.
It took rescue workers two hours to get her down using a hydraulic lift. She was taken to a nearby hospital to be checked out, but was found to be unharmed and was released later that day.
I'd say she was fortunate. It's not likely that someone could sleepwalk through the hazards of a construction site and come out without a scratch. And if someone were to ask her if she wanted to do it again, I'd be very surprised if that young woman said anything but an emphatic “no.”
She didn't choose to do it in the first place, of course. That's the thing about sleepwalking - it's beyond your volition and beyond your control. Who would choose it, assuming they had an option? Who especially would choose to put herself in a situation as frightening as that young British lady? The word “preposterous” comes to mind.
But sleepwalking is a pretty good description of the spiritual lives of some of us.
“You are children of the light and children of the day,” Paul wrote. He wrote that to Christians, to believers who had been awakened and enlightened spiritually by their experience of the gospel and reception of the Holy Spirit. They were people whose lives were supposed to be conditioned by “the day” - the day when Jesus would return. It would be expected that they would live lives that were radiant with the light they had received and anticipatory of the day Christ would come. But some of them weren't. Some of them were living like they belonged to “the night” and “the darkness”. They were “asleep.”
A quick glance through 1 Thessalonians gives you a hint of what Paul was worried about. Some of the believers had adopted the sexual ethics (or lack thereof) of the world. Some of them were lazy. Some of them were drinking too much. Some were troublemakers. Some were slow to forgive and long to hold a grudge. Some of these “children of the light and children of the day” weren't living lives that radiated the light of Christ and anticipated his coming. Instead, they were living in ways that imitated the darkness and night of the world around them. They were dozing spiritually.
They were sleepwalking.
It would certainly be an exceptional era in the history of the church if some of us weren't sleepwalking too. The world around is dark, and often even seems to us like it's getting darker. The night has been long, and there are few signs of dawn on the horizon. Sleep seems comforting, easy, inviting. And so our spiritual eyelids get heavy. It becomes harder to hear the voice of God as our awareness dims. We become less responsive to the Holy Spirit, less able even to know his presence. It's easy to doze off and find ourselves sleepwalking through dangerous places, making bad choices, growing more and more comfortable in the night around us and less tuned in to the Day that's just over the horizon.
I guess the general rule is that you never wake up a sleepwalker. But it may be that some of us need a wake-up call. The longer we sleepwalk spiritually, the more at risk we are. We may not belong to the night, but we can certainly get cozy in it. The danger exists that the allure of the night and the darkness will be so strong that we'll lose all interest in the light of Christ and the day he comes. So if your life is more darkness than light, if you can't see that you're any more awake than anyone else in the world, then open your eyes. Wake up. You might not like where you find yourself, but I promise you there'll be a pierced hand extended to bring you to safety.
“Let us be awake…,” the Bible urges us, reminding us that living in the light, with our eyes glued to the horizon looking for the dawning of the Second Coming, is not always easy or comfortable. It requires discipline to nurture our spirits when our appetites demand satiation. It cuts against the grain to reject the values of the world for the values of God's kingdom. It isn't easy to listen for the Holy Spirit's voice when the insistent buzz of the world in our ears makes us drowsy. It's hard sometimes to raise the light of Christ in the darkness and night and make ourselves conspicuous by refusing to doze when Satan plays his lullabies.
But it's better than the alternative. “…You know very well that the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” (1 Thessalonians 5:2) The Lord is gracious, and compassionate, and loving, and forgiving. But I do not want him to find me sleeping when he comes. When he arrives and eternal morning finally dawns over the horizon, I don't want him to have to wake me then. I want him to find me wide awake, waiting for him, my life radiant with his glory.
I want him to find you the same way too. So if you need a wake-up call today, then consider this that call. You're not about darkness, or night. There are people around you who don't know Jesus, and it's not surprising that they might be asleep. But that's not who you are, not if you're in Christ. You're all about light, and the Day that's about to dawn. If you're living in the darkness, if you've been lured by its promises of comfort and peace, it's time to come back into the light. If you've been sleepwalking spiritually, it's time to wake up.
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