I love music, but not at 6 am.
At 6 am, I don’t want to hear anything, not a sound. Not a voice, not a door slam, not water running, and definitely not the soulful singing of a sacred choir calling me to prayer.
But call me it does, that choir. From the far side of the cold, dark room, angelic prepubescent voices chant in near-unison an anthem of worship, while I hide my sinful, lazy soul beneath the electric blanket.
Technology is on the side of monasticism at 6 am, darn it. Gradually the crescendo threatens to waken the entire house. It is threat of damnation, not promise of devotion, that stirs the dead to rise, shut off the blessed music alarm, crawl back under the covers, and consider the battles ahead.
The battle to have meaningful, worshipful devotions.
The battle to honestly, painfully bare the soul in private journal.
The battle to rise with a smile to great a difficult day of dirt, disappointment, and drudgery.
The battle to survive.
Every day is a battle.
And it never stops.
I step into the closet to consider the racks of clothes, enough to dress a small African village. Shall I send them now and be done with the fashion war? Some too tight, some too loose, some too nice, some too shabby. It’s a battle to simply choose quickly and dress appropriately. Not the same pair of jeans I’ve worn the last four days straight! Not another hole! Not too dowdy! Does this even match? Before I’ve even taken a shower, I have given myself a fashion black eye to match the usual color of my clothes.
How to keep a smile on my face when Tuesday runs into Thursday, each week exactly the same except maybe colder or wetter or poorer or sicker? The todo lists on the fridge, on the calendar, on the phone all reminders of the lost battles every hour of every day.
The laundry isn’t folded.
The math isn’t graded.
The car isn’t vacuumed.
Library fines, lost shoes, missed appointments, overflowing inboxes.
I didn’t write that letter, practice that piece, or bake that cake.
I haven’t dusted in weeks.
The list of should-haves, didn’t-finishes, and other failures — failures — grows mountainous before 4pm ever arrives.
And 4pm is way, way worse than 6am.
Dinner isn’t started, children are quarreling, clutter is scattered, dogs run muddy, nerves are frayed, and Dad’s on his way home.
Heaven, save me.
Steven Pressfield writes about the Resistence earnestly. My inner battle to quit is even stronger than his, however. I haven’t found him penning an essay about daydreaming of jumping free while driving a minivan across a bridge.
Don’t judge — you’ve dreamed it, too.
But 4pm fights it’s way to 5 and 6, and soon we are cleaning the dishes and scrubbing the pans and throwing tantrums and toddlers into beds. Bedtime can’t come fast enough, and close your eyes quick because it starts all over in a moment.
I hate 6am.
With a sigh of resolution (or reservation) I lunge for the hypocritical alarm to silence that infernal singing. My devotional readings on the biblical city Bethany cannot cleanse all my guilty stains, but the war within pauses a moment to consider the humanity of Christ as it brushes against the humanity of sin.
And I feel poor.
Enveloped in cotton and fleece, shielded from cold and want, I envy the earnest woman who breaks precious perfume to dump it all extravagantly over a dining Deity. She won the battle. She arrived. She smiled in the presence of the only One who mattered, knowing her struggle was over.
And I feel so poor.
Poorly equipped to put my feet where my mouth is, poorly trained to show others the way, poorly put together, poorly performed, poorly worded.
Like my closet collection, my spiritual armor runs tight, loose, mis-matched, and not-quite-put-together-right. I feel poorly equipped, even shabby. Why, if these are heavenly garments, can I not fit them well?
The poor you have with you always, He said. Battles are costly and resources are dear. How foolishly I often waste my resources, like Judas, on the temporal or selfish rather than flinging them at Jesus with only thoughts of Himself.
I waste my worry, waste my attention, waste my prayers, waste my worship. She invested, I squander. So now I beg poor for crumbs from the Master’s table.
Mary found the important battle, fought it, funded it with her life’s savings and future security. Not her own reputation; she remained still forever on that. But the battle for love, the battle for worship, the battle for extraordinary living — Mary spent every last resource to ensure victory at any cost. That’s how and why she won.
It’s the age-old question: Who will deliver me from the body of this death? Like the apostle, I dread each morning because it brings anew the reality of my own impotence, fallibility, and waste. I can do nothing, because I am nothing.
Apart from Christ.
Oh, Lord, draw me nearer, nearer, nearer! Until one day, like Mary, I see the beauty and fullness of you presence and cast all extravagantly and fully at You, forever richly victorious because of You alone.