Sleep. People talk about having too much or too little. Either they can’t sleep or can’t stay awake. They want to sleep a lot or never want to. Also, there are drugs to make you fall asleep and there are drugs to make you stay awake. Sometimes we can’t get a handle on sleep.
Or can we? There’s nothing wrong with a good night’s rest. And for some there’s nothing wrong with a catnap in the middle of a busy day. Just recently I was talking to a man who works for a large electric service company. He said that sometimes he and his co-workers have to catch a nap in the truck while waiting for a big project to get under way because they know they might be up for many hours, even all night.
It can be helpful to conceive of sleep as not simply an unconscious state of mind – to see that it can be more than just a relief from exhaustion or escape from tension and trouble. For some, a natural night’s sleep might represent a confident state of mind, a result of trusting that everything is under control and that the higher power they lean on is maintaining everything in perfect order.
It can also be helpful to see that sleep is not necessarily the default condition to renew energy or to escape challenging daily life issues.
Occasionally I think back to an experience I had while I was in the military. I was working the night shift, midnight to 8 a.m. Something happened during those few days that taught me a really good lesson I’ve never forgotten. What happened has two parts to it.
First of all, I felt inspired to do some serious study of the Bible and the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science. I looked up many citations about God as Love – infinite, ever-present, comforting. My investigation and digging into these ideas uplifted me. I felt refreshed and renewed, even to some extent reborn.
The second part came just a few days after my wonderful study time. Some close friends from church in town had a special need. They asked if I could help them out during the day, even though it was usually the time I slept to prepare for my midnight shift duty. As it turned out, I was awake for three complete days and nights. I worked all night and was with my friends all day, without having my normal sleep routine.
After the crisis was over, I was able to work a midnight shift and then go to bed as usual. Because of the spiritually refreshing study and prayer I had done several days earlier, I felt no fatigue at the end of those three days. When I went to bed the morning after that period, I did not feel I was going to have to pay a penalty for my days without sleep. It was such a comforting thought.
It’s always been interesting to me how Christ Jesus could have been asleep on a pillow in the stern of a ship during a violent storm. He must have had such great confidence in God’s goodness and in His control over everything that he was able to exhibit quiet and peaceful behavior. No apparent stress. No signs of frustration or anxiety. Just a sense of calm and serenity, so much so that he was able to still the very storm that was tossing their boat around (see Mark 4:37-39). The Bible says, “And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”
For many, sleep is not an escape from exhaustion but a normal sense of rest – of a conscious awareness of the power of the divine Mind to govern and control His creation. Also, lack of sleep does not need to put us into a tailspin of being tense and irritable.
Mary Baker Eddy wrote: “God rests in action. Imparting has not impoverished, can never impoverish, the divine Mind. No exhaustion follows the action of this Mind, according to the apprehension of divine Science. The highest and sweetest rest, even from a human standpoint, is in holy work” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 519).
Whether we have just a little bit of sleep, or too much from feeling exhausted from hard work, we can still feel rested and refreshed as we become more and more aware of God’s guiding and sustaining presence.
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