In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning

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My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises. (Psalm 119:148)

Something strange happens to you between 2:30-4:00AM. You come unhooked from your surroundings and float in a kind of there/not there world where everything is a little out of phase and the smallest sensory input can kill you.

When I was a graduate student, the entire grade for one of my classes was based on a single paper due at 10:00AM on the last day of class. At 10:00PM, Sunday, the night before, I figured I should probably start on the paper. I went to the university library and discovered, to my horror, that it was closing at 11:ooPM. I had less than an hour to do all my research. I careened through the stacks, furiously rifling through tables of contents and indexes, yanking books from the shelves and shoving the rejects anywhere there was a space. At eleven, I walked into the night, my arms loaded for business.

When I returned to my apartment I dropped the stack on the kitchen table, made myself a pot of coffee, and sat down to organize my material. At midnight I pulled out the typewriter (no computers back then), poured another cup of coffee, tuned in the top-forty on my AM radio (yes, AM), and sat down to type what would have to be my first and final draft of a one-shot 15-page essay.

I did pretty well until about 2:00AM when my edges started getting a little crispy. So I turned up the radio a notch and made another pot of coffee. By 3:00AM the words on the pages started sliding around and I had to work hard to keep them on the paper. The tap tap tap of the typewriter keys started sounding like gunshots and my fingers stabbed with pain at every keystroke. (When I made a mistake I had to use “white-out,” the delete option of those days.) By 4:00AM the radio hurt my ears and I could barely keep my head up, but I knew I couldn’t go to sleep.  I had to finish the paper or fail the course.

I was still at the typewriter when the sun came up, a caffeine-shredded zombie with fingers on fire and eyes bloody. At 9:30AM I finally pulled the last sheet out of the typewriter, stapled the 15-page ordeal, and stumbled to my professor’s office where, at 9:53AM, I numbly tucked my magnum opus into his mail box. I bumbled back home and collapsed into bed.

At the end of the week, I found the paper in my mailbox. On the first page my professor had scrawled five simple, bloody red words: “This is a strange paper.” He didn’t know the half of it. I’m still not sure, but at around 3:30AM the night I wrote the thing, I think God spoke to me. I was staring at an unfinished page in the typewriter and lifting my umpteenth cup of coffee in shaking hands when I distinctly heard a different five words: “You are such an idiot.” It had to be God

And for once I agreed with him.

.   .   .

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One Response

  1. This is a fantastic post. (And that definitely squares with my experiences of God speaking to me.)

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