At this I awoke and looked, and my sleep was pleasant to me. Jeremiah 31:26
I believe that sleep is a spiritual gift, especially if we define spiritual gifts as those God-given endowments bestowed upon us to help fulfill the mission of the Church. (Definition found here.)
I do my best work when I am rested. I do my worst work when I’m exhausted.
A couple of fun facts about sleep:
- Ambien is the 4th most prescribed psychiatric drug in the U.S. (Yes it’s considered a psychiatric drug to be taken only short-term according to this.)
- Infants spend about half their sleep time in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep while adults spend only about 20% of our sleep time in REM sleep.
- Non-REM but almost-REM sleep is the time when our body reboots, our heart rates slows, our muscles and bones repair themselves.
- 40% of adults in the U.S. have difficulties sleeping,
I almost never have trouble sleeping. The night my father phoned to tell us that Mom was going to die, I went right to sleep.
Like I said, sleep is a spiritual gift.
More than one pastor has told me that by the time their weekly Sabbath rolls around, he/she is so exhausted from the unrelenting duties of professional ministry that the whole day is spent sleeping. (Note: this could also be a sign of depression.) After leaving a congregation I served for over 20 years, I moved halfway across the country and slept for three months. Seriously, every part of me was utterly wiped out.
What can we do to promote deep, nourishing rest so that we can arise fresh each day to do ministry?
What helps people sleep? A clear conscience? A caffeine-free diet? One of those sleep number beds?
One particularly disruptive sleep-killer is fear: fear that something horrible will happen while we snooze (like rats will eat me) or fear that we forgot to do something that day or fear that we will not survive this _____.
There are 49 words for “fear” in the Hebrew Bible and 15 words for “fear” in the Greek Bible. I can name something to fear for every letter in the alphabet.
But God wants us to sleep as if the world can spin without us. Because it will.