Yours is the day, yours also the night;
you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.
“I am one acquainted with the night,” writes Robert Frost. I know this poem–its images wet and grim, its refrain mournful and lonely–well enough to teach it, well enough for the few questions that appear on one of my tests. But I don’t know it, because for most of my life I haven’t been acquainted with the night at all. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve willingly stayed up from dusk through dawn. No college paper, let alone college party, was worth the loss of sleep. I just don’t like the middle of the night. For most of my life the night and I were strangers. Until now.
Now we’re getting acquainted, Night and I. We’re getting used each other when I wake up at 1:15 AM to the gurgles of an awake baby, check my watch, and sigh because it’s just not been that magic 5-hour stretch that I hoped it would be since I fell asleep. Since I’ve never been one for the dark hours, night to me is sitting in a chair in a dim room, rocking a baby to sleep. It’s not so bad, I suppose–I’m thankful enough for the time with my daughter–but it’s solitary and sleepy and some nights are much harder than others.
Night-owling college students and Las Vegas guests notwithstanding, nighttime has gotten a bad rap historically. In literature darkness symbolizes ignorance, deception, and evil, perhaps because in real life we fear literal darkness and the unknown monsters it hides. Somewhere along the way, we created binary associations. Day is Good. Night is Bad. God, obviously, must prefer daylight hours. So tough luck, cab drivers, nurses and new mothers: you exist in Darkness.
So it’s with a sigh of relief that I read Psalm 74 at bedtime: “Yours is the day, yours also the night; you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.” It’s not a revelation, but a reminder, conjuring nights of stargazing in the Alps or stirring up the milky phosphorescence in the inky waters off the coast of Vancouver Island. Anyone who’s been camping knows that no matter what animal eyes might glow eerily through the darkness, night is full of beauty and mystery, just as much a reflection of God’s love and artistry as its tamer, better-lit counterpart.
And whatever the Psalmist meant, burying this verse in a psalm about God as Savior, I hear more than just a God-of-all-seasons message here. After finishing the Daily Office reading, with Luci still not asleep, I scroll the day’s headlines. Terror in Belgium and Turkey, images we can’t avoid because we’ve seen them all too many times already. A political season full of petty squabbling at its best moments, disturbing hatred and disrespect at its worst. We’re living in Night, the metaphor.
I think of my tougher nights of late, frustrating for their loneliness and lack of sleep. They’re hard, yes, but at no point do I stand up, walk out, and say “I quit! I’ll be your mother again when the sun comes up.” Day and night, I’m a parent. I love my daughter the same ridiculous amount whether we’re sleeping or awake, whether she’s crying or giggling. The circumstances–the amount of light in the room or the hour on the clock–don’t change anything. I am still her mother, and I still love her.
And in the midst of this night–the headlines and the anxiety for the future–God is still our Father. Still powerful and loving. Still seeking our best, despite the darkness that surrounds us. Because, as another psalm reminds us, “even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you” (Psalm 139:12). Yours also, oh God, is the night.