Alarm Clocks

There are two kinds of people in the world: the kind who need alarm clocks in the morning, and the kind who don’t. Those of you who need an alarm clock start your day with an annoying, unwelcome interruption to your sleep. You groggily hit the snooze button as many times as you’re able to, and heave a heavy sigh as you finally get out of bed to start the day. You stumble through the motions of making some sort of caffeinated beverage, go through your morning routine, and sometime by mid-morning you’re finally mentally moving. You sleepwalk through the day and before you know it you’re looking at the clock and you think, “I should go to bed right now… but… one more thing.” Next thing you know, it’s an hour and a half past when you should’ve been asleep, you haven’t even brushed your teeth yet, and you’re cursing your own stupidity for staying up so late yet again. The next morning, the alarm goes off, and you groggily do the same thing all over again.

Then there’s the “no alarm clock needed” group. Those in that camp still have an alarm clock, but you’re awake before it makes a sound. It’s more of a reminder to start your schedule for the day than an actual need to wake up. You don’t need caffeine, and you’re always on time for everything, if not early. Going through the day seems effortless, and at the end of the day you look at the clock and think, “Time for bed,” and you go. The next morning you bound out of bed refreshed, before the alarm, ready to start the day.

The snooze alarm crowd hates the early riser crowd. “Where do they get the energy? How come they’re never tired? How do they get the same amount of stuff done in a day and still seem to get more sleep?” In the meantime, the early risers shake their head at the snooze alarmers. “Why don’t they just go to bed when they’re tired? What are they doing for that extra hour and a half that’s so important? If they just did this and this and that different, they could be an early riser too.”

Now, the snooze alarmers sometimes try to make those changes. They set alarms to remind themselves to go to sleep on time. They read articles and try techniques and rearrange their schedule and try to create new habits to change themselves into early risers. Sometimes it sticks, but usually it doesn’t, and one night of “just one more thing before bed” sends them back into their old ways, and before they know it, they need their snooze buttons again.

Regardless if you’re a snooze alarmer or an early riser, we all need our rest and we all have things to do. The only difference is how you choose to spend your time awake. It is your time awake that determines how you sleep.

In our spiritual life, it is easy for us to be spiritually lazy, to need an alarm to wake us up. Sometimes it’s just the gentle beep of Ash Wednesday that makes us drag ourselves out of our spiritual bed and sleepwalk into forty days of joining millions of second graders who give up chocolate. But sometimes we are woken by something more serious, something that shakes us from our spiritual slumber with a rush of adrenaline, like the death of a loved one, or a serious illness or other traumatic event. These heart-pounding wakeup calls bring us face-to-face with the stark reality of our spiritual sleepiness. “I’m going to start taking Mass more seriously,” we say. “I’m going to go to Confession more than once every five years, I’m going to go every other week. I’m going to read the Bible, cover to cover. I’m going to say the Rosary every day.”

But, as they say, old habits die hard, and in our fallen state it is so easy to fall back to spiritual grogginess. The ever-present world of secular desires pulls us back with the immediate yet temporary gratification of more money, better stuff, and things to see. We can say the Rosary tomorrow, there’s a bonus to earn today. We can hit snooze on Confession, there’s shopping to do. We can miss Mass today, there’s a big game to watch. Death and judgement is tomorrow, we have things to do today.

The hands of time keep ticking, regardless what we choose to do or choose not to do. The difference between an eternity in Heaven and an eternity in Hell is how we choose to spend our spiritual life. Are we spiritually awake? Do we need a spiritual alarm clock to wake us up over and over and over again? Do we keep hitting snooze on our spiritual life? Or can we dig deep and change our spiritual lives so that we no longer need a wake up call? Because we never know when the clock will stop ticking.