The Fourth Watch

The Romans had a way to divide the times of the night into four watches. They are 3-hour divisions:

1st watch – 6pm to 9pm

2nd watch – 9pm to 12am

3rd watch – 12am to 3am

4th watch – 3am to 6am

Those who ever worked the night shift would be familiar with this in some ways. The Romans who were well known for their battles and wars, knew that the effectiveness of any watch during the night would be good only within a 3-hour period. I assume the soldiers were switched at every watch to provide high alert guards throughout the night. Otherwise, it could mean the loss of one of their areas of control to the enemy.

I have experienced working the night shift and personally, the “dead of night” would be around the fourth watch. Why I call it the “dead of the night”? Well, at such times the ‘Z’ (sleep) monster will be at its strongest and your eyelids feels like it weighed a ton. Sometimes we might ‘see’ (hallucinate) things. Perhaps this provides a clue as to why ghost stories are related by people who ‘experienced’ it at such hours.

This brings me to why I was talking about the Fourth Watch. It was from this passage in Matthew 14:22-27 (ESV):

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

More often than not, the parts that captured our attention would be about Jesus walking on water to the boat, Peter walking on water towards Jesus but sinking in the process, the statement made by Jesus to Peter on why he doubted and had little faith, and when the winds stopped the moment Jesus stepped into the boat. I am not saying that these were insignificant. In fact, these were spectacular, very visual and appealing to our senses. A miraculous story.

However, when I tried to put myself in the shoes of the disciples on the boat, rowing across the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret) which was 13 kilometers wide, with the winds and waves against them for hours in the night trying to get to the other side, I found it hard to fully understand what they were going through. The closest I experienced was a grueling physical and mental test in the past. It was on land with a group of friends carrying heavy backpacks trekking to the final campsite before reaching the summit of a mountain. We were lost and seemed to be walking in circles and it lasted through the 1st watch. Some of us began to hallucinate as we ran out of water and our torchlights were out too. I was mad at the person who had caused us to get lost, also the guide who had abandoned us and the other half of the group ahead of us for not searching for us. We were beginning to talk stuff that made no sense… we were delirious and exhausted. Obviously, I survived the ordeal but it gave me a sense of the state of mind of the disciples on that boat.

Before the disciples went on the boat, they just witnessed Jesus miraculously feeding 5000 men with 5 loaves and 2 fish. Jesus probably sent them off at the 1st watch to go across the lake. They must have left on a high note and felt invincible being sent by the one whom they KNOW as the Son of God. With a number of rowers on a boat to cover 13 km, it was a simple task but it turned out to be a har-rowing nightmare against the wind and strong waves which lasted hours passing through the 2nd and 3rd watch! How far did they go? Perhaps three quarters of the journey, like 9 or 10 km. They should be exhausted, angry and bewildered at their situation, likely questioning why Jesus sent them on such a route. They could be thinking or saying, “He must have known the weather and winds and yet he sent us.”, “Why is he torturing us?” or “Did we do something wrong that we have to suffer like this?”

At the fourth watch, Jesus went to the disciples by walking on the water towards the boat. Their response was understandable as seeing the shadow coming towards them, they cried, “It is a ghost!” It was perhaps the toughest time of the night for them and being physically drained, it was hard to SEE that Jesus had come to save them. Probably a testing of their faith at such times and a kind of training that would build them up.

Then we read further on the passage about Peter in Matthew 14:28-31 (ESV):

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 

Peter became an example when he tried to act on that faith by asking to walk towards Jesus. He did walk on water but turned his FOCUS on the wind and began to sink. What was described of Peter’s action? He had little faith and he doubted.

Then it ended with Matthew 14:32-33 (ESV):

And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Was it the stopping of the winds that made the disciples respond to Jesus like this? The disciples had already experienced Jesus calming a stormy sea (see Matthew 8:23-27). This was clearly different. I believe it was the personal experience they had in their heart, soul and mind that made them acknowledge that He is truly the Son of God. It was no longer just knowing, it was experiencing, believing and growing.

I pray that at whatever times, especially the Fourth Watch, I will SEE the steadfast love of God guiding me in every step and FOCUS on Jesus that I may be found faithful to fulfill the assignment that he has given me, such that I will:

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4 ESV

Amen.

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Sleepless in Singapore

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The title was inspired by a movie “Sleepless in Seattle” but it’s not about that story as the focus is on my homeland, Singapore.

Many of us are working the daylights out of our lives and end up with less sleep than needed. It doesn’t help that the lights don’t really go out in Singapore as it can be quite bright throughout the night till day breaks. 24-hour supermarkets, eateries and cafes are in abundance and how can a sleep deprived nation get better in life like this?

6, 7 or 8-hour sleep is a luxury for anyone (babies not included) in Singapore. I bet that most working adults, when asked whether they will `binge sleep’ on their day off will respond, “Of course!”. I also believe the motto of most younger adults would be to work hard and play hard.. so that equates to? Long days and long nights = Sleeplessness!

Many Singaporeans go on tour or travel as far and wide as possible. This may be a common phenomena in all developed or developing countries but it could be a cry to get out of this country, to have some kind of rest or respite from the pressure cooker life they have been living. Of course, many dream or desire to seek a bigger, spacious, more scenic or cheaper place to spend, enjoy and relax before they go back to the grind… and some chose not to come back. So this explains why so many Singaporeans travel frequently, young and old.

I am a light sleeper and don’t get to fall asleep easily. People who fall asleep easily and can sleep anywhere at anytime are considered gifted or blessed when compared to my ability to sleep. Also, when it comes to naps, if I do take one, I will not be able to get the full nights sleep for that day. It’s like a timer for the amount of sleep I am allowed per day, so I don’t take naps. However, it’s not that bad as I still get to sleep and empathise with those who have insomnia and that’s another big struggle altogether.

Dreams are not something I recall vividly and more often than not, they were fleeting things that either take the form or shape of happenings during that period of my life. It’s like what matters or affects you may evolve into some kind of dream or nightmare. You wake up feeling uneasy or blurred by the dream but I would brush it off or pray for it not to bother me as I face another day. When I do pray or meditate on God’s word before sleeping, I find that I have better sleep. So I believe it is good to quieten down and do some reflection before sleeping but please don’t go and worry about stuff as that would probably keep you awake.

Some people who lead a more disciplined, orderly life would have planned their schedule and day and this usually help in getting a good night’s rest as the stuff for the next day has been planned. However, those who are anxious or tend to worry might not get to sleep well whether they are organised or not. So it’s not just about getting enough sleep, but the quality of sleep is equally important.

Hear ye O Singaporeans! The lack of sleep is NOT a good thing as it will take it’s toll on your mind, body and soul. It’s not something you can get back in your later years or something you can pay back by `binge sleeping’ on your day off. The body is not engineered that way so don’t try to beat it. Count your blessings and costs, sleep enough and sleep well. Remove your digital devices from your room, including your TV or game remote. It’s really not worth it.

Hear ye! Hear ye! Hear ye!

[The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “To Sleep, Perchance to Dream.”]

Twenty-Five Seven

Good news — another hour has just been added to every 24-hour day (don’t ask us how. We have powers). How do you use those extra sixty minutes?

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One major envy I have of cats is their ability to sleep almost all the time, wherever and whenever. Without hesitation, my answer is I want to use that sixty minutes to sleep more.

We have such a hurry-burry life that more often than not, we end up with less sleep time. Someone said that we cannot pay back sleep time if it was lost for that day. It’s like saying for every time you lose the sleep time required, it will go into some kind of exchange with what we term as life span. This sounds scary but I sort of understand the thinking behind it. We have heard comments made about someone like “He looks ten years older” or “She looks haggard but she’s much younger than you think”. Of course we have also heard comments in the reverse too but that’s another subject altogether.

Generally, we all know that sleep is necessary and the lack of it will spell trouble not only in our health but a lot of other things like our mood, clarity of thought, disposition, etc. I have heard several versions about how much is enough when it comes to sleep and the most common answer was, at least 7 hours.

Twenty-Five Seven – DP