Last fall, the political atmosphere woke me up. I’ll stay awake, I promised. I’ll fight myopia; I’ll read the news; I’ll care about the welfare of people outside my immediate circle (and more than just theoretically).

I subscribed to a news magazine. I read a book or two. I joined a group of people committed to one small action for the good of the world every week.

And then I fell asleep.

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said.

“Stay here and watch,” he said.

“Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray,” he said.

“Are you still sleeping? Enough! The hour has come. Rise! Let us go! Here comes by betrayer!”

I have always looked down on Jesus’ closest friends because of this moment. It is the night before his death, and Jesus is crying out to God in desperation, sweating blood into the ground, about to be tortured and killed. He asks his friends to wait with him. To watch, to pray, to wait with him in this moment of near despair. And they fall asleep! As he cries out, they nod off. He wakes them with grace (“the spirit is willing, but the body is weak”), and again they return to slumber.  How could they do this? How could they forsake their friend on the eve of this ultimate forsaking?

I was convicted absolutely last night by what Dave Kludt said at Open Door. I was woken up once again. Keep watch! Witness the brokenness in this world. Stay awake! See how God is moving and join in the renewal of all things! I, too, have fallen asleep, as I always do. But I am invited to be restlessly attentive to how God is moving in the world.

Jesus understood his vocation, absolutely. He came to die. He came to triumph through death, through what looked like failure. And this story is the hope of the world.

So what does it look like to stay awake? To witness suffering and actively bring love and goodness to a world desperately in need of it? To be honest, I’m not certain.

I had a friend in college who regularly worked himself to the point of exhaustion. When he couldn’t go on, he would take a “nap” by sitting in a chair with his keys in one hand, hanging over the arm. He’d close his eyes, and the moment he fell asleep the keys would fall and the noise jolted him back awake. That was all the nap he needed to keep going.

I’m not condoning this nap method, nor working to the point of exhaustion. But what I wonder is this: What are the keys in my hand? What can I set in motion to wake myself up when I (inevitably) fall asleep again? 

Here are a few ideas:

  • Have a few people in my life committed to being my wake-up call.

  • Pay for a news subscription so I’ll actually read it.

  • Light a candle in my kitchen to remind me to pray (as my grandmother used to).

  • Write reminders in my calendar for a month from now and six months from now to stay awake.

  • Sell what I have and give to the poor—find creative ways of giving to people on the ground. (I keep hearing good things about Preemptive Love Coalition.)

  • Pray:

God, forgive me for falling asleep.

Jesus, go before me.

Spirit, wake me up!

I would love, just love, to hear your ideas. 

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