Within five minutes this evening the wisdom of two women brought the focus in my life back to where it should be. A conversation with my wife about how the last week has really been for me took her only seconds to zoom in on a key element of wellbeing that I have been ignoring. Then a blog post by a woman of thanksgiving who was feeling pressured carries a hint right at the end about goals for the year set and forgotten.
In January I wrote about making 2011 a year of essentials – one of the first non-essentials was identified as too much time spent catching up on internet happenings, a focus that has been lost in just a couple of months!
When I am finding the world and life all a bit much I like to retreat into the quiet spaces of my days and pursue ideas as they arise. Blog links and Google give extra leverage to such a process. However, the time spent has to come from somewhere, in my case it gets stolen – from my usual time with God and from time that should be spent asleep. This is actually stealing from God, or at least taking something God made as good and corrupting it for my own selfish ends. Consider the following extract of an article by John Piper:
Why did God imagine sleep? He never sleeps! He thought the idea up out of nothing. He thought it up for his earthly creatures. Why! Psalm 127:2 says, “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved in his sleep.” According to this text sleep is a gift of love, and the gift is often spurned by anxious toil. Peaceful sleep is the opposite of anxiety. God does not want his children to be anxious, but to trust him. Therefore I conclude that God made sleep as a continual reminder that we should not be anxious but should rest in him.
Sleep is a daily reminder from God that we are not God. “He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4). But Israel will. For we are not God. Once a day God sends us to bed like patients with a sickness. The sickness is a chronic tendency to think we are in control and that our work is indispensable. To cure us of this disease God turns us into helpless sacks of sand once a day. How humiliating to the self-made corporate executive that he has to give up all control and become as limp as a suckling infant every day.
Sleep is a parable that God is God and we are mere men. God handles the world quite nicely while a hemisphere sleeps. Sleep is like a broken record that comes around with the same message every day: Man is not sovereign. Man is not sovereign. Man is not sovereign. Don’t let the lesson be lost on you. God wants to be trusted as the great worker who never tires and never sleeps. He is not nearly so impressed with our late nights and early mornings as he is with the peaceful trust that casts all anxieties on him and sleeps.
In quest of rest,
I think it is important for me to be humbled by the reality of my need for sleep. I also need to remember in whom I should put my trust as I sleep:
At the very least, sleep is a good opportunity to entrust yourself, your entire self, to God’s care. You’re trusting something when you lay down your body and, with it, the control of your conscious mind. That moment when you consciously choose unconsciousness, and let yourself go, is a daily opportunity to relinquish control to a God who you have to trust.
(Fred Sanders 2007, The Theology of Sleep)
I must admit that I don’t generally consciously entrust myself to anything other than my mattress and bed when I go to sleep – I have been blessed with the ability to go unconscious within minutes of my head hitting the pillow so sleep just happens. Perhaps I need to learn the prayer I was never taught as a child:
Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
I pray for my children before they go to sleep, that God will keep them safely in His arms whatever may happen, yet oddly I do not pray the same for myself!
Sleep is an essential element of being human. I need to thank God for sleep as a gift and also as a command to cease striving and rest, trusting in Him for things left undone and for His renewed blessing every morning. Perhaps one of the reasons we must sleep is to be awakened to the wonder of God’s blessing of a new day, every day.
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;great is your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV)