There is a certain time of night when meaning is transformed, when songs we sang casually in the afternoon reveal a darker subtext, and insomnia is a doorway to a place not reached another way. The question is whether we see things then more truly as they are-or madly? This is Prince Rilian's dilemma in The Silver Chair.
My daughter is afraid of the dark and embarrassed about it. I have told her that she should not be embarrassed because she is on to something, something that adults have had acculturated out of them, and boxed up in a package called psychology.
Judas betrayed our Lord, then turned on his heels to leave the upper room. "And it was night," the Scripture notes (John 13:30)-which you and I took to be a chronological marker, an inconsequential footnote. It was in fact a crack in the wardrobe leading to the secrets of the wee hours, and to unholy habitations. The sleepwalker and third-shift night watchman will tell you that night is not a place on the clock but another culture, peopled with other denizens.
Here in the wee hours, things come alive that we in daylight modes of thought consider figures of speech. Evil, finding the coast clear, sheds his daytime charade as "concept," and hovers above my bed, an inky, swirling menace. Like the nocturnal creatures God has made, he had hidden himself from the profanity of the Light. But "this is your hour, and the power of darkness" (Luke 22:53). It is the hour of the Accuser, and he dredges up old scores I settled long ago with Christ (Zechariah 3; Revelation 12:10).
East of Eden, where all heaven holds its breath, the Lord warns Cain: "Sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you" (Genesis 4:7). In the daylight I have been intelligent about this verse: anthropomorphism, metonymy, our forefathers' quaint animism.
What folly this academia seems in the wee hours! How it plays into the hands of the Croucher. Like the Tarkaan god in Narnia's The Last Battle, he is all too pleased to have us dismiss his reality thus if he may the better drag men down by agnosticism or scientism.
"Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." What ancient animosity belies this perennial dance to the death of two kingdoms, played out in the diurnal rhythms of sun and shadow? The sun "like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them" (Psalm 19:5-6).
Ah, but no sooner is his chariot sunk over the horizon than the Nemesis comes out of hiding: "On every side the wicked prowl" (Psalm 12:8). One kingdom waxing, the other waning; light giving way to dark, dark cringing and skulking away with dawn's rosy finger. I remind my daughter that in Fantasia's final scene, Day has the last word.
Aimee and I read a picture book called The Whatsit about a little boy and the scary monster who lived in his basement. The spell of terror broke when the braver the boy got, the more the monster shrunk, till a mouse-sized rodent finally scurried out the door.
Bravery comes from remembering the end of all evil kingdoms, and how pathetic they will look come Daylight: "And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent . . . , the deceiver of the whole world-he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, 'Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come" (Revelation 12:9f).
Would I prefer to be cured of my hours in the silver chair? I think not, for they are not less sane than waking hours, which have their own insanities. Bring on the nightly tug of war for prudent reminder of the battle. It is a kindness, as long as I know that "Jesus shall reign where'er the sun does his successive journeys run; His kingdom stretch from shore to shore, till moons [and Evil] shall wax and wane no more."