The Brave Decision to Sleep

We, our bodies and our souls, are desperate for rest, yet we are so fearful of it.

It is a brave decision to choose sleep. Sleep is a declaration of trust. It is admitting we are not God, who never sleeps, and that is good news.

Maybe this declaration of trust is what gets in the way of this brave decision. We feel like we should be doing so much more with our lives. Sleep feels like an extra nonsense. While sleeping you don’t have anyone saying “good job” and you have nothing to accomplish which you can put on your resume or take off your to-do list.

But…but…but…when we choose sleep, we rest in our limitations as created beings. When we sleep, we admit to our limits. This pace of life that “everyone else appears” to be running on is not sustainable. Sleep is not like recharging your phone. You are not a machine needing to recharge. You don’t sleep so you can work harder.

Besides amazing things happen through the night. There is life at night.

There is an entire class of flowers that only bloom at night. Moonflowers, evening primroses, and other night bloomers are in full glory if you find them after dark. Psalm 104:19-20 beautifully describes, You made the moon to mark the seasons, and the sun knows when to set. You send the darkness, and it becomes night, when all the forest animals prowl about. Life is everywhere.

a moonflower from my friend Dana’s yard

Our body heals overnight.  Through sleep our brains, muscles, and hormones function better. Our cells are repaired. Our energy is conserved. We dream. We fight illness. We form, sort, and strengthen memories from our days. We also learn in our sleep.

I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me.

Psalm 16:7

There are things in our spiritual lives, too, that only bloom in the dark. You know this is true when you wake up with that new business idea or you wake up with a song that I believe God was having sung over you throughout the night.

But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life.

Psalm 42:8

This is all happening without our knowledge, consent or control. God designed the universe—and our bodies themselves—so that each day we must face the fact that we do not have to prove our worth to the world. We begin each day this way. Worthiness is our birthright. We begin our day in our worth because God prepared us for the day.

We know that Jesus slept during his time here on earth. Jesus slept because he needed to and because he had nothing to prove.

The darkness is where everything starts. Out of the darkness came all of creation. Including us. We go to sleep and in that darkness God begins his work. Tish Harrison Warren broke it down so wonderfully like this:

In Jewish culture, days begin in the evening with the setting of the sun. (We see this in Genesis 1 with the repetition of “and there was evening and there was morning.”) The day begins with rest. We start by settling down and going to sleep.

This understanding of time is powerfully reorienting, even jarring, to those of us who measure our days by our own efforts and accomplishments. The Jewish day begins in seemingly accomplishing nothing at all. We begin by resting, drooling on our pillow, dropping off into helplessness. Eugene Peterson says, ‘The Hebrew evening/morning sequence conditions us to the rhythms of grace. We go to sleep and God begins his work.

Though the day begins in darkness, God is still at work, growing crops, healing wounds, giving rest, protecting, guarding, mending, redeeming. We drop out of consciousness, but the Holy Spirit remains at work. ― Tish Harrison Warren, Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life, p. 150-151

Our lives begin in the dark. Not when the sun rises. The work begins when we fall asleep. This is the start of our day. We start our day with rest and nothing to prove—at least we should. Make this brave decision.

By making this brave decision we accept that we are incapable of doing for ourselves what sleep provides. Is this why we stay up late, staring at screens, working late, or vegging out? Are we resisting our bodily limits every way we can?

Sleep is vulnerable. Maybe that is why we resist it?

When you vulnerably set yourself to sleep, when you give in to your human limitations, this is when the crazy thoughts come. The failures of the day. The life crisis you are managing through right now. Your doubts about God. All of the thoughts that your busyness distracts you from. The thoughts that don’t allow you to sleep. You cannot protect yourself from bad dreams or mosquitos or whatever that irritate. We are all at the mercy of the night…vulnerable.

So do you get back on your phone or turn the TV on hoping to tire yourself to sleep? Except there is this thing about blue light disturbing sleep.

Brave decisions always require vulnerability. And vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. These are the things I want in my life. I choose to lean into the vulnerability of a good night’s sleep.

Doesn’t that sound good? And desirable?

“Rest is an act of defiance, and it cannot be predicated on apology. It’s the audacity to face the demands of this world and proclaim, we will not be owned.”

Cole Arthur Riley, This Here Flesh, p. 157

I like this statement too from Black Liturgies. It speaks to the rebel in me. I will defy the norm and choose sleep. Where the work begins.


New Bible Study:  Trust Issues with God With Video

Life is unfair. When the unfair thing happens, we look for a reason, a solution, a purpose, justice. These are all things we expect from God. When God doesn’t deliver when we expect or need him to, there is a gap in our understanding of who God is. This Bible study is to help you fill in that gap with trust over suspicion by exploring the truths of the Bible, both individually and in a group setting.

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