Keeping Vigil

I am awake much too late, and not haphazardly. After a long weekend of late night wedding celebrations and a long play-filled visit with dear friends from childhood, I was more than ready for an early night’s rest. But alas, my husband is on a journey north, a long journey, after a long weekend for him too, and I am prone to keep vigil until he arrives safely at his destination. I will not sleep soundly until he does. God bless me when I have teenagers!

My husband Scott gave an inspiring homily at the wedding of JIm and Mary Anne Frank about the work of a relationship. Citing wisdom from the New Testament and referencing the tides he bases life around when fishing, he gave a charge to all in relationships to serve one another wholeheartedly and be ready for the changes, and there will be goodness. He danced into the night with a grateful wife and 3 giddy children. It is a rare treat to get to be at a wedding together as the salmon season in Canada usually takes precedence to everything summer. But now he is a pastor, and his work divides his time, forcing a bit of normal summer life upon him when he is home overseeing ministry rather than the 18 hour days a seasonal resort requires of him. But, he must to return north.

His long journey began at 4:00 a.m this morning in Spokane so that he would be able to take guests fishing at 4:00 a.m. the following morning in northern British Columbia. He caught a flight to Seattle in time to pastor and preach at our satellite campus church, Bethany North. After the final chair had been stacked and the last storage trailer had been parked, he headed north toward the Canadian border for the beginning of a 10 hour trip. Meeting an overbooked ferry early in the day added a 2 1/2 hour wait to his journey and negated his chances of catching the last possible ferry to Malcolm Island, his final destination. McGyver-style, he figured it all out and had a boat delivered to the main Island, so he could arrive at his final destination in time.

As I nestle my children to bed, gather up my own good book to read and snuggle myself in at a very reasonable hour, I find I am wide awake waiting and can’t focus on my reading. His cell phone coverage is spotty in the more desolate parts as he drives the length of Vancouver Island so when he last could call I asked him to text when he arrived at the boat and then again when he had made it across. I have seen what can be in the water during the day. I know every last person at his destination will be sound asleep. The night crossing has me anxious, as does his late night drive after long full, albeit fun, days. I will keep vigil for him.

11:26 p.m. the first text comes in: “Port McNeill. Beautiful night for a boat ride”

I have been waiting and praying, for his safe arrival. He must be exhausted. I wish I could give him the gift of sleep he so often offers me when he’s up at fisherman’s hours in the off-season months to care for our early risers. I would drive the car or the boat late into the night while he slept, if only I could be journeying with him. But I am now hundreds of miles away and my only point of common reference is the dark starry sky out my window. I pray it will be bright for him.

My favorite lullaby to my children is my favorite for the words,

“Sleep my child
and peace attend thee,
all through the night.
Guardian angels God will send thee
all through the night.
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping,
Hill and vale in slumber steeping,
I my loving vigil keeping,
all through the night.”

That is what I do, keep vigil at night. I hear every sound, every cry, every pitter pat of tiny feet, every questionable bump in the night inside or outside. I am alert, even when I am sound asleep, I will awake and take on the night. I will do everything I can to nurture and protect my family, every hour of the day. I would have done well as a Shepherd and honored to be in the Garden of Gethsemane.

But the reality, is I can only do so much. Really, I can’t do much at all when I consider what truly might take my child’s breath or put us in danger. The real comfort of this lullaby comes not in resonating with my loving vigil, but the prayer of the beginning: Peace attend thee, my child, God will send Guardian Angels (Thanks be to God). I only keep watch, it is He who will protect thee. (Please and Amen).

I swoop into my children’s rooms each night just before I go to bed to hold my vigil one last time before I seek my own sleep. When my husband is away, I am all the more vigilant. Tonight though, it is his journey away from us that keeps me waiting and watching for his safe arrival. I realize how powerless I am from afar to protect him, just how powerless I will be as my children grow older, gain more freedoms and eventually depart from my home. But still I will keep my vigil, still I will pray. My only strength is His, that He provides guardian angels, that He keeps watch.

12:02 “Home. Bed. Goodnight.”

12:03 “Oh good, I love you!”

“Sleep my child and peace attend thee,” He whispers to me.


2 responses to “Keeping Vigil

  • Heather

    Roger,
    I am re-reading my very neglected blog in a season of pregnancy induced bed-rest. Your words are beautiful and so complementary. Thank you for taking the time to write them.

  • Roger Gross

    Dear ATHF,

    Often, I think about marriage. I know it is a relationship created by God for a loved people who are completely undeserving of something so full of deep wonders and contentment. I imagine that the joy a father feels when he spies his daughter marveling over the first butterfly to ever land on her finger is similar to that which our Father felt while searching your heart that late night. Perhaps God will grant mankind another century of marriage because of you.

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