Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:14-16
The Bible offers me some mixed messages about sleep. God causes people to sleep, like in Genesis 15 when Abraham fell asleep and was under deep and terrible darkness. Wisdom literature indicates sometimes people who sleep are lazy, and sometimes they are receiving a gift. In the gospels falling asleep is almost always a picture of a person’s spiritual state, like when the disciples fall asleep in the garden instead of praying for Jesus, and the apostles urge readers to stay awake (spiritually) instead of falling asleep. Sleep covers a lot of ground in scripture, and I have tried to pull these different things together into some cohesive theological point I could hang on to here. Maybe it’s there, but I’m too tired to figure it out right now.
It seems like my life would be easier if I did not need to sleep. Really, as much as I want to blame this all on sin, scripture mentions rest occurring prior to the fall. God called darkness “evening” and the coming of light “morning” from the very start. He worked for six days and rested on the seventh. He even caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep to remove a rib and create Eve. (Supposedly prostitution is the oldest profession, but I see scripture clearly pointing to anesthesiology for that honor.) These things all happened before sin entered the picture, and I’m struggling to figure out how something that was designed in perfection -my physical need for sleep- can seem like such a crutch.
After every long day of loving my very small children in my dated house-that-still-doesn’t-feel-like-a-home, with unanswered emails, ignored blog, unread books, disorganized basement, and unexercised body, I set up my coffee maker to brew at 6:00 am and groan quietly while walking down the half-painted hallway to collapse in my bed: think of how much I could accomplish in the next few hours if I didn’t need to sleep! The insomnia I experienced after my miscarriages was similarly exhausting and paralyzing, but this has been longer and more intense, and it’s teaching me that I have a really bad attitude about my own need for sleep. In a stage of life that seems full of limitations, I am annoyed (no, I am offended) that my day wraps up with another reminder of things-I-can’t-do. I believe, secretly, that I will find peace to comfort me through the significant daily demands of my so-small children if I can type out the thoughts in my head, or paint the walls of my living room, or maybe even just get the house clean.
I have always had a lot more ideas than time, but even though the current imbalance feels suffocatingly huge, I’m hardly the first stay-at-home mom to articulate that my life is full of big responsibilities with very little immediate “accomplishment.” As I face the end of each exhausted day with the alarming sense that THERE IS STILL A LOT THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN, I keep thinking about the opening worship litany from the Book of Common Prayer:
“Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against thee
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved thee with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we earnestly repent…
…For the sake of thy Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in thy will,
and walk in thy ways,
to the glory of thy Name. Amen.”
7 thoughts on “What We Have Left Undone: God’s Grace in Exhaustion”
You are handling this sleepless year with so much humor and grace! And I wish I could slide you a strong mug of French press coffee right now!
That would be amazing. You’re the best!
This was absolutely awesome, Abby. Cut yourself some slack. A lot of slack. You have a baby and a toddler and a dog!
Fist bump! Coffee! All the cheering!
Seán pulled a very mean trick when he was an infant. From about six weeks to four months old, he slept eleven hours straight through every night. Then, for the next year (basically), he woke up to nurse four or five times through the night (plus every two hours during the day).
I thought I was going to die.
My point is: you are not alone. You can do it. And it will end.
(And just on the off-hand it doesn’t by the time Thomas is fifteen months old, I’ll write you another note telling you the same thing….)
Love this, Abby! Very timely for me with two tots! I completely understand the frustration with undone projects and ideas, and the belief that if I could just get sleep/quiet/2 minutes alone then my situation would change. If we still lived in the same city I would make you a double-shot cinnamon latte with extra whip, and we could sit in my messy living room with our non-sleeping kiddos and be puffy-eyed together. Also, I’ve been incorporating the confession prayer in my devos, so I LOVED seeing it show up here. So cool when the Spirit converges like that! 🙂
Girl, there is no coffee shop on earth like Charis’ living room. I will miss those mornings ’til I die!
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