I slept 11 straight hours last night.
For those that know me well, they will know that such an occurrence is a rare thing.
And yet, even with all that sleep last night, I find myself weary tonight.
It’s been a busy 5 weeks. Two trips to New York. One trip to LA. One trip to Indianapolis. So many meetings. So many late nights and early mornings. Too many dinners out. Not enough exercise. And a hurt foot through all of it.
Some of it has been very, very good. I had a wonderful time taking my oldest girl with me, on my LA work trip. And my time in Indianapolis, at The Gospel Coalition’s conference, was incredible. And, I hit Silver status on Delta, so maybe I’ll score some free upgrades over the next year and a half.
But I am beyond tired.
And I think my brain and body said “Enough!” last night. Which landed me 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
I find sleep to be such a difficult thing. I’ve suffered from nightmares for so many years, that I’ve trained myself to function on little to no sleep. 5 hours of sleep, for me, is more than adequate, and is what I consider a successful night.
But tonight I am reminded of the first time I heard this concept: Sleep is a spiritual discipline.
When my friend first told me that sleep was a spiritual discipline, I thought they were crazy. Spiritual disciplines are things such as reading your Bible, praying, memorizing scripture, fasting…..where does sleep fit in to any of that?
But it does. I just didn’t know it then.
And, I’m still learning how it does, today.
It’s not an easy thing to grasp.
However, here is where I am trying to land, in regards to sleep (bear with me, I’ll get there):
- Reading and memorizing scripture is an act of faith–we who are Christ-followers do so out of faith that what we are reading, is truth
- Praying is an act of faith–we who are Christ-followers do so out of faith that we are heard by God
- Sleep is an act of faith–we who are Christ-followers do so out of faith that God sees, knows, protects and sustains us
Where does this idea come from?
It’s Psalm 4:8~
In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
It’s Psalm 127:2~
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 sleep.
It’s Proverbs 3:24~
If you lie down, you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
And, oh my soul, it is Psalm 3:5~
I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
You see, my friends, it is a spiritual discipline, because it is an act of trust and faith that the God of the universe, who sometimes seems so near and yet other times seems so far away, is–regardless of our ability to sense His nearness or not–very present, even when we sleep. It’s an act of laying down and, in essence, saying,
“God, this day contained both joy and grief. Or, maybe it contained only one or the other: Joy or Grief. Regardless, the night has come, and you have created us as creatures that require a time of sleep–for our health, for our minds, for our souls.
So I will set aside the things that trouble me; the thoughts that plague me, the scenes that haunt me, and I will trust that you are the God who never sleeps. I will trust that Psalm 121:3, is truth:
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
And God, in sleeping, help me to trust you.”
Not always an easy thing to do. I know that full well. I live the difficulty of that almost every single night, as my mind fights of sleep like a 2-year old who doesn’t want to nap. They fight, though, because they don’t want to miss something. My mind fights because it fears the night, and the potential nightmares it may hold.
But here is what I am learning. Slowly. God will–and does–sustain me. Even in the toughest nights, He sustains me. He does not abandon, even if I do not sense His presence completely. Even if I am awakened, frightened. Or if I am anxious. Or worried.
It’s ok to sleep, because God grants sleep to His beloved, as both a rest to renew and an avenue to trust Him.
So, while I was a bit disconcerted after my 11-hour, highly unusual slumber last night, tonight I am grateful for it. And I am reminded that, during those 11 hours, He did not abandon. He sustained me. And that sleep allowed me to be able to do all the many, many things that I needed to do today–participate in daily spiritual disciplines, spend time with my kids, unpack, clean house, do laundry, study, mow the yard, and catch up from this busy month.
And yet another reason to practice the spiritual discipline of sleep, is it is a weapon to battle doubt. I like this quote from D.A. Carson, from his book Scandalous, because I know this is true, for me; lack of sleep exacerbates cynicism and doubt in my mind and soul:
Doubt may be fostered by sleep deprivation. If you keep burning the candle at both ends, sooner or later you will indulge in more and more mean cynicism—and the line between cynicism and doubt is a very thin one. Of course, different individuals require different numbers of hours of sleep: moreover, some cope with a bit of tiredness better than others. Nevertheless, if you are among those who become nasty, cynical, or even full of doubt when you are missing your sleep, you are morally obligated to try to get the sleep you need. We are whole, complicated beings; our physical existence is tied to our spiritual well-being, to our mental outlook, to our relationships with others, including our relationship with God. Sometimes the godliest thing you can do in the universe is get a good night’s sleep—not pray all night, but sleep. I’m certainly not denying that there may be a place for praying all night; I’m merely insisting that in the normal course of things, spiritual discipline obligates you get the sleep your body need. (Scandalous, 147)
God. Please let our sleep, be sweet.