I hear him approach before I see him. He walks into the room carrying a heavy burden. His shoulders are slumped over and his head is hung in a type of shame that can only be experienced by those who have done something beyond terrible. He looks at me expectantly. He's waiting for a greeting, a nod of my head, a raised eyebrow, or anything that will indicate that I am interested in what's on his mind.
I sigh. It's going to be a long night.
"You're late," is all I say to him. He nods knowing that he is. It's 4 am. Usually he visits around the magical hour of three. But, not tonight. Tonight something has held the devil up. And he wants to talk about it.
Three a.m. is my witching hour. It is the hour that the loneliness sets in. Three a.m. is when I stop praying for sleep and begin to pray for strength. He usually chooses this hour to visit and taunt me with images of people sleeping. As I lay alone with only a body pillow for comfort, he projects visions of couples blissfully wrapped in each other, eyes closed, dreaming of clouds and nothing. And then just as quickly as these haunted pictures appear, he rips them away and reminds me of my reality. My aloneness at three a.m.
"What detained you?" I ask. "You could have just stayed away."
"You could have prayed me away." He retorts.
He's got me there. My prayers seem to be the only thing that keeps the devil at bay. Often times, I find if I ask the Lord to visit, He will appear instead of the devil. God comes and lays beside me. He wraps me in His warm cocoon of love. But, I haven't prayed in awhile. My mind has been a cloud of thoughts mixed with confusion. The devil knows this. He takes full advantage.
I sit straight up in bed. With the covers folded at my waist, I lean against my pillows for comfort. I gently remind the devil that he has a little over two hours before my alarm clock shakes me from this waking nightmare. He nods. He knows my routine better than I do. He visits me at least three times a week.
"You've had a lot on your mind," he says. I resist pointing out what an obvious statement this is. Instead I wait to see what the fallen angel has to say.
Exhausted, I slide down in the bed. I pray for tears that will never come. I haven't cried in years, and I doubt I will start now. The silence is heavy as I feel the devil weigh my words. He speaks quietly.
The devil stands up prepared to leave. Before he walks out, he turns and says something that will more than likely keep me up for the next solid week.
"You people make it so hard on yourselves. It's really easy to get rid of me. All you have to do is face your fears. What you fear most is what keeps you away from God. And brings you closer to me."