It’s 2 a.m. The limbs of the trees outside my window are moving in the wind; the sound of the leaves rustling a bit is agitating. I can’t stop my thoughts, one after another, all in a similar vein, and none of them productive. “Did I have caffeine after 2 p.m.?” “Are these hot flashes ever going to stop?” “Is it the glass of wine I drank?” “I should exercise more.” “I am too busy.” “I’ve done this to myself.” At 2 a.m. I am always at fault, always a failure, always a disappointment. At 2 a.m. I have COVID, cancer, and am perhaps having a heart attack.
At 2 a.m. my kids are in danger, my parents are having a health crisis, and I am one phone call away from tragic news about people I love.
At 2 a.m. it is my job to do better, apologize, ask forgiveness, do penance, and still end up not being able to resolve or right what is wrong with me, my relationships, or the world.
The 2 a.m. wake-up calls from my brain and body began years ago when menopause collided with a difficult and painful season of leadership professionally, producing the 2 a.m. cocktail of hot flashes, night sweats, and toxic thoughts. Back then, I would often get out of bed, make some peppermint tea, and sit wrapped in a blanket, watching the fire.
I listened to all those thoughts, welcoming them as if they were treasured guests here to tell me the truth.
I believed they would help me repent, change, improve, and become more obedient. Instead, my heart raced, my blood pressure climbed, and anxiety became my new companion day and night.
A friend suggested yoga. Growing up in a conservative evangelical setting, I had been taught yoga was bad and would open some mystical door to soul-damaging influences. But I needed something, so I added yoga to my morning ritual. Quietly, I lay on the floor of my home office listening as the soothing voice from my app told me what to do. Breathing in, exhaling, moving my body was good, and most days my practice ended with me softly sobbing in child’s pose.
Mark knew I was struggling to sleep through the night, and on a snowy, cold December night buried under our down comforter, holding the weight of all the things, and he simply prayed, “Jesus, please.” No other words were necessary.
Those two words became my mantra during yoga and my sacred words during contemplative prayer. They were the way home when I lost myself in the swirling thoughts and accusations in the middle of the night.
I have come to know that 2 a.m. racing thoughts, fear-filled wonderings, and accusations are not treasured guests or the voice of God. They don’t need to be listened to or entertained. They need to be kindly ushered outside, and the door closed behind them. Today they are a reminder that I am always in need of the presence of Jesus, and oftentimes peppermint tea and a soft blanket.
Tracy Johnson is a lover of stories, a reluctant dreamer, and the Founder of Red Tent Living. Married for over 34 years, she is mother to five kids and a pastor’s wife. She loves quiet mornings with hot coffee, rich conversations, and slowly savored meals at her favorite restaurants. She is awed that God chose her to mother four girls having grown up with no sisters. She writes about her life and her work here.