In the Wee Small Hours
On that day when the Lord gave the Amorites over to the Israelites, Joshua spoke to the Lord; and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand still at Gibeon; and Moon, in the valley of Aijalon.” And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. – Joshua 10:12-13 (NRSV)
The sun is limiting its face time with the northern hemisphere these days. Dawn rises each morning with slow luxury. Noon casts long shadows. Dusk reddens the autumn leaves in late afternoon.
I’m grateful for the lengthening nights in this time of glaring injustice, gaudy lies, and flashing threats of violence. I can’t imagine taking joy in a day without darkness, a day of blazing light, a day without the reprieve of time, a day when the moon waits in the wings so the sun can abet catastrophic horror.
But even without the sun standing still, daily upheaval has quite an overwhelming intensity. As does election news. As does pandemic news. As does pretty much everything else. My social media is filled with calls for the brilliant work of justice to be unrelenting. Righteous messages and unrighteous messages alike radiate the theme: We cannot stop! We must persevere! Let the sun stand still to fuel our work!
Meanwhile the moon is spending an increased amount of time whispering a different necessary truth: Here, for all, are the lengthening hours of the night, a gift for repentance and restoration. For quiet and calm. For dreaming and releasing.
We need the moonlit hours, as much if not more than the sunlit hours, for the work at hand. Or at least, I need them. Because what will be the value of virtuous victory under the sun if we kill ourselves (and others) in the process?
Here is the sun, willingly waning, so that our agitated spirits might do the same.
Give us this day our rest.
Rachel Hackenberg serves on the national staff for the United Church of Christ. She is the author of Writing to God and the co-author of Denial Is My Spiritual Practice, among other titles. Her blog is Faith and Water.