Thursday, March 11, 2010


I had been having trouble sleeping at night. Though I was able to fall asleep at my “normal” bedtime (midnight, I have discovered, is not normal, by the way) I ended up suddenly awakening just after 2 am. Every night. My eyes would pop open, I’d stare into the black and realize it was not morning, then turn my head to the clock to see that it was the same minute…something like 2:21…every single night. I don’t think mid-night waking up, in itself, is particularly unusual. What seemed unusual for me were the heavy feelings and crazy dark thoughts that accompanied the waking. That’s what wore me out. That’s what did me in. After weeks and weeks of sleepless nights my defenses buckled and I was a wreck. My muscles throbbed, my head hurt, my heart raced and radiated an ache that was as physical as it was emotional. When sunlight came, and the duties of the day, I was able to function, though I wonder in retrospect how well anyone could function under those circumstances. But those nights! How I dreaded those nights!

I bore all this silently, as silent as dysfunction can be, I guess. Truly, I’d like to see a flashback of the reality from the outside rather than the inside. We are rarely capable of completely hiding our pain, though I thought I suffered alone.

One night, after glancing at the familiar time stamp at my bedside, I lay staring into the space of our room; closed my eyes to escape, only to visit the swirling lights of the under-lids of my eyes. Have you ever closed your eyes and really tried to look at what was there?

Then the thoughts came. It’s thoughts that wear horns, not demons. They mocked me, taunting me for thinking I was capable of raising children, hissing that my kids would be better off without me. They could keep the steadiness of their dad, but really, shouldn’t they lose the mom? How crazy is that? I remember asking a friend once if she ever felt that way…if she ever felt that maybe her kids would be better off without her? I would not have asked the question if I hadn’t thought maybe everyone felt a little bit that way sometimes. So I was surprised when her response was so sure: “Absolutely not! No one could possibly love my kids, or know them, like I do.”

Well, that helped!

So on this particular night, at 2:21, I awoke once again to the darkness. My chest rose and fell in deeper waves as I lay there, tears rolling into the cups of my ears. I looked over at David, who was sleeping peacefully. Strangely comforted by seeing him sleeping, I rolled off the side of the bed and buried my head in my pillow. Since Guillain Barre Syndrome overcame me six years ago, leaving its residual peripheral neuropathy in my lower extremities, I have been unable to kneel. But back then, on this sleepless night, I understood the energy exchange that came with kneeling. We bow our heads to receive energy from above, and it pushes the negative energy out from the soles of our feet. I prayed for this to happen. But it swirled inside, like a whirlpool, in spite of my pleadings.

“Where are you?”

I wrinkled my forehead and exhaled the words. I have never felt too far from God, my whole life. That’s a gift. But this was a Gethsemane.

As I knelt there, wondering if He was there - wondering why, if He was there, he didn’t manifest himself to me - I remember thinking about a Sunday School lesson from years before. Strange, I know. But God moves in mysterious ways. I remembered Steve Geary, our teacher, starting his lesson with a question: “What does firstborn mean?”

Class members answered: firstborn son of Mary; firstborn son of God the Father, in spirit and flesh. I consciously wondered why such a memory would come to my mind at that time.

Then I understood. We usually get heavenly answers through the vehicle of other humans, and Steve Geary’s voice was the path for this message.

I realized, there at the side of my bed, that whatever I was experiencing, I was not alone in it, and this is why: It had been felt before. The weight of whatever it was had been hefted onto the shoulders of another, and He had carried it, along with the weight of all my other sins and sufferings, before I experienced it. He had carried it with sorrow, and with grace, and He knew firsthand what I was feeling. He might not take it away - but he sure knew how it felt. There is a magnetism in shared experience – we feel bound somehow to each other because of it. Holocaust survivors feel it with each other. High school classmates feel it with each other decades later. Cancer survivors; widows and widowers; mothers of autistic children…we identify with each other and feel at ease because perhaps we feel understood without having to give long explanations.

So it was with me and my Lord.

There was no instant miraculous change in the pattern for me. I woke at 2:21 again the next night. But I never did feel quite so alone. I was led to seek help. I found a good doctor. I talked to people I loved. Eventually, almost without noticing, I found myself awakening to the sound of the early chorus of birds outside my window one morning, having slept through the night.

Beyond the great, almost unspeakably great, gift of the Atonement…beyond the freedom it affords my soul and the hope it gives all of us…the sweet gift that our Savior handed us in the palms of his blood soaked hands was the shared experience. He knows us by heart.


I don’t know where it comes from
I don’t know where it goes
Comes on like a whisper
Then a hurricane blows
My head spinning round
My heart full of thunder

Then the storm rages on
And I feel so alone
There’s a pain in my heart
With a life of its own
And it’s taking me down
It’s pulling me under

Then strained by the struggle and stained by the tears
I fall on my knees to the floor
And I cry to my Lord, “Don’t you know what I’m feeling”
And He answers, He’s felt this before

Firstborn of the Father, Lord of the Heavens,
Who came here to show us the way
Firstborn of Mary, laid on a cradle of hay
The first perfect light to conquer the darkness
The first at the garden, the first to go in
He loves me with His offering
My own sin and suffering
Were first born
By Him

Bridge: So stay with me Jesus, you’ve already born this
I know you have felt just the same
When you knelt in the garden and you carried this burden
You offered it all in my name


Becky Garrett sings a beautiful version of this song, on her own album, "Gentle" and on the EFY album, Living the Legacy. It is available, with a slightly altered chorus, in a Best of EFY songbook as well. You can hear my version, as well as all the other songs on Sleepy Little Town, by scrolling down to the Music Player below.


  1. It's 11:04 at night, and you have just satisfied my meaningful, intelligent, lovely and spiritual reading quota for the day. Better late than never. I love what you write. Thank you, Cori.

  2. How grateful we are for grateful we are for you, who speaks so eloquently, so straight from the heart for the rest of us who love you and who love Him!!

  3. Thanks Cor. What a great reminder. Thank you for being so willing to write about your own life. You touch all of us so much by doing so. Sure love you.