What a summer I had last year. I had lost or damaged so many things: relationships, direction, sense of who God actually created me to be, confidence, income, health, peace of mind. My ministry was gone and my marriage was wounded. The only thing firmly in place was my pride, but God was chipping away at it. Who will I be, I wondered, if You take that away from me?
God is getting through to me
8.10.06 I finally confessed the truth to myself and God:
I need sleep. I am so tired. I cannot find peace or comfort of any kind until I get sleep. There is nothing anyone can offer me that will help me in any way until I get rest. And, God is not going to give me my next directions until, through rest, I am in a better frame of mind.
8.11.06 and the 1-2-3 punch. I sat at the kitchen table with my Bible. The only scriptures I could recall about rest were the commands to keep the Sabbath, a commandment I not only broke regularly, but had some pride in doing because I didn’t want to be seen as lazy, but rather a hard worker who earned her keep. The only scriptures about sleep in my rememberance were the ones like, “…the stouthearted were plundered, having sunk into their sleep,” and when David said he would “not give sleep or slumber” to his eyes.
Even Proverbs taunted me with, “A little sleep, a little slumber…so poverty shall come on you,” right after calling me a “sluggard,” and telling me to “consider the ways of the ant,” hard workers, all of them.
So after the revelation I received the night before, I prayed, God, please show me if this is Your word to me right now. Could it be true that all You are asking of me at this time is to sleep, get rest, become renewed? Is Your yoke really that easy? Is Your burden really so light? Could You teach even me to cast aside my need to be and to do and could You actually give me rest? (Matthew 11.28-30, please read, dare to believe).
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
God gives His beloved sleep. That thought popped into my mind right after I prayed. I had heard it somewhere (probably a few thousand times…I am a slow hearer). God gives His beloved sleep. Simple, plain. To the point. With some trepidation I searched my concordance. There it was: Psalm 127, a Song of Solomon (the wisest of men).
Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, To sit up late, To eat the bread of sorrows; For so He gives His beloved sleep. Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They shall not be ashamed, But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.
I read it. I read it aloud. I wrote it out, word for word. I thought about it. I looked at each phrase independantly and interdependantly. I meditated on it. I thought it through from every possible angle. It was this amazing thing I could barely believe was there for me! I spent an hour and a half at my kitchen table with my Bible just trying to grasp this wonderful news: God gives sleep. He was ok with me getting sleep. I didn’t have to do it all. I didn’t have to make sure every single thing got done before I enjoyed the restoration, the recovery that sleep brings.
It began to dawn on me that “unless the LORD builds ” it…it is futile. “Unless the LORD guards” everything, the watchman (me, usually) is in big trouble. The revelation was taking hold that I was living in the vanity of rising early and staying up late and worrying my head off over everything (the bread of sorrows/anxiety). God had actually given me permission to sleep.
God gave me, one of His “beloveds”, sleep. I wasn’t quite sure what it meant or how I would do it and I knew I was really too busy to do it, but I also knew this was a moment in time I could receive and be changed or ignore and spend the rest of my life regretting. An hour and a half of scripture meditation…I got up to start the dishwasher with wonder in my heart…
The phone rang just as I got up from the table. My firstborn (see photo above), Tara, was calling. I thought maybe I would tell her what God had been showing me through His Word, but I wasn’t quite ready to come forward with the full story. It was the sin of my pride being exposed, after all.
She wasn’t waiting to hear from me anyway. She came directly to her point. She said, “Mom, I have been reading the Word and I feel that God told me to call you and tell you this-” and you are probably not surprised to hear that Tara read Psalm 127 to me…every word of it, stressing, “God gives His beloved sleep.”
That was one of those moments, even now as I write it, I am in awe that the God of the universe had time to make sure I was hearing His plan, His will, His heart towards me. It is so humbling.
The P.S. to this is, our friends are not fooled nor impressed by our drivenness. Our families do not think we are living our best life just because we are running circles around them doing-doing-doing. They’d love to have us stop, relax and be. My mom still starts every phone call from several states away with “I know you’re busy and I don’t want to keep you, but…” because she knew I was perpetually in a hurried and harried state of the most earth-shattering projects at all times for years.
The problem is, when we are not rested, we don’t allow anyone around us to rest, either, at least not without making them feel inferior. When we’re rest-less, we cause restlessness in the ones we love most. We even make them do things from our endless to-do lists.
Are you blushing with shame? Remember, I’m not judging. It takes one to know one. My poor husband, Dave, hadn’t had a day off in over 20 years, thanks to my lists and projects. Our full-speed-ahead “fruitfulness” wears out the ones we most love.
Later that evening, I pulled out an article about resting in the providence of God that a friend had given to me to read a couple of months earlier. I had read it at least twice. I thought I would check it out again since it was about the Sabbath and I had a newly-increased motivation in learning to keep it, and obey it.
You are sharp enough to have guessed what I found – I hadn’t even noticed the paragraph about Psalm 127 before or the beautiful statement made by the article’s author:
“God knows that His creatures need restoration by rest, and so He not only commands but even invites us to get it.”
God wasn’t being redundant with me. He was making sure I got the invitation! He knows how slow I am to hear and learn sometimes. I mean, this whole thing is in His Word, so actually, since I learned to read, it has been there for me to read and receive. How many times had I run the other way? My husband Dave and God only know.
Two days later, God would issue another reminder as I wrestled with whether or not I would press in to accept this newfound freedom. I’ll tell you about that tomorrow (Sleep, day six). But until then, I want to tell you that I know from experience that the loss of sleep from over-work and anxiety and pressure is overcome by calling on the Lord who calls you His “beloved one.”
If you need to work hard and press in to do something difficult to feel alive, then press in, “make every effort,” to receive the promised rest, as Hebrews 4.1-11 invites us!
Think about what you are willing to give up to receive what God is willing to give you…Jeanie
NOTE TO SELF: “I cried unto the Lord with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill. I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustains me.” Ps. 3.4-5 Even during the most hectic and disconcerting times in my life, I can sleep in peace knowing God will sustain me and has the whole world in His hands…
Read all the posts from this series:
- Sleep, Day one – I didn’t even know I needed it
- Sleep, Day Two, I hadn’t slept in almost ten years
- Sleep, Day Three, Hunter and the Prophet Elijah
- Sleep, Day Four, Even the Prophet Elijah needed a nap
- Sleep, Day Five – I discover Psalm 127!
- Sleep, Day Six, The Sunday Morning Bubble Disaster
- Sleep Day Seven, Even God rested on the 7th day