This week Friday the Collision youth group will be having a stay awake! The name is a pretty good descriptor of what will happen: the teens (and leaders, unfortunately) will stay awake from Friday night till Saturday morning. This is the second one Andile and I will be running, and clearly, we did not learn from last time…

As bleary and bewildered as you feel in the days after the dreaded all-nighter, it is worth it for the fun of the night. There were a number of threats made in order to keep everyone awake. The first was permanent marker face art. The second, was a selection of multicoloured nail polishes for the guys. The third, more subconscious threat, was to be remembered as the one “weak-willed” person who fell asleep. Finally, there was the FOMO: we didn’t want to fall asleep out of fear of missing out.

For those who have not had this unique experience, it goes something like this: from the time we arrive, to around midnight, energy is high! We’re playing games, running around, eating dinner and worshipping. We blast the music as loud as possible (sorry cottage folk!).

From midnight to two, the midnight munchies kick in, and the snacks start to disappear. Then comes the hardest part of the night: the 2am sleep exhaustion. It is the most tired I have ever felt, and I very nearly lost face (literally and figurately) at this point last time. Fortunately, my coffee kicked in in the nick of time, and the exhaustion passed.

This phase is followed by the craziest of the lot: the over tired insanity phase. Picture: a cat or dog with the zoomies. At this point we start up our games again, including sardines (a variation of hide and go seek where only one person hides), in the dark. The church is surprisingly scary to walk around at night. And when the hiders became bored and started stalking the seekers: well, I’m just surprised Atlas didn’t show up with all the screaming.

By 4am the last vestiges of energy are gone, and we all collapse on the youth lounge floor. Last time, we attempted to play 30 seconds at this point. Between everyone’s drooping eyelids and playing the harder, ancient (1998) version of the game, after four rounds we had probably made two right guesses and we gave it up as a lost cause. This was followed by some time for deep questions with answers that, at the time, seem incredibly wise to our addled brains.

We found enough energy at 6 am to go out and watch the cloudy sunrise (and set off the alarm). We made it! We celebrated with a breakfast of ice-cream, hot chocolate and chocolate. Within the next two hours, everyone was gone and we had all stumbled into our beds, not to be awoken by anything short of the apocalypse.

I claimed at the beginning of this letter, that because we’re doing it again, I clearly didn’t learn anything from this experience. But there definitely was something to be learned. Even with all the jokes of about what we would write or draw in permanent marker, or how the people who fell asleep would be scorned, whenever someone’s energy flagged, someone else stepped in to drag them onto their feet and keep going. If there was a general lull in activity, and we’d started sinking into the comfy chairs and beanbags, someone always suggested something that would get us going again. If any one of us had tried to stay awake through the night by ourselves, we would have succumbed to sleep eventually.

In the same way, when we are trying to achieve something big, Lone Ranger style, we inevitably fail or do a barely passable job of it. When we try to do something big, it is ok to ask for help, or for accountability.

“Two are better than one, because they will have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” Ecclesiastes 4: 9 – 10

In the heart of a book where almost everything is described as “Meaningless!”, King Solomon reminds us of the importance of having others we can reach out to.

Whatever “Stay awake” we are each trying to get through at the moment, lets remember that we don’t have to go it alone. And if there are people in our lives who are “starting to fall asleep” and need reminding that we are there for them, let us reach out. We all need someone to share a bowl of ice-cream, hot chocolate and chocolate with, when it is done!

Much love in Christ
Heather P