In search of sleep …


I woke up from my usual summer dream. Without even checking, I figured it must be around August 1. It was my annual back to school dream. Each one is unique but without fail, I wake up anxious and frustrated. This time, I was teaching Grade 1 (definitely not my specialty!). I was teaching in someone else’s cluttered, full from top to bottom classroom. I was expected to use hands on materials teaching something that I did not understand. Waking up was a relief, a respite from what I had just encountered.

Returning from a trip across multiple time zones recently, sleep has been precious. Sleeping on airplanes isn’t restful. Waking up at 2:00 a.m., then 3:00 a.m., then 5:00 a.m. isn’t either. I always think the transition should be easier than it is.

And then I was reminded:

But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.  Psalm 3:3, 5

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8

A peaceful night’s sleep is not something that I produce of my own making. Regardless of the bed, the pillow or the blanket, I am unable to manufacture rest. True rest, the kind that penetrates a soul is only found in the shelter of the God who knows me best.

He is a shield. One who protects in the face of danger. The only One who can cause my heart to feel secure and sure. It’s more than a large piece of metal. Sometimes, I attempt to shield myself, to put myself in control and try to cause a certain outcome to occur. It’s in those moments that I am reminded of my futility, my complete inability to hold it all together. If God is my shield, I am not spared calamity or pain, but I have a faithful Father walking and surrounding me with His presence. There is a security in His embrace.

He is the sustainer. Each breath. Each sunrise. Every sunset. Every precious memory. Each moment I would rather forget. Without Him, none of these exist. Any attempt where I try to do life apart from Him, emerges with feelings of frustration. He holds, He equips, He provides, He has hands that are large enough for all of it. He has never left me forsaken but sustains through every single step.

In Him, I can dwell. The word dwell can mean to live or stay as a permanent resident; reside, or to live or continue in a given condition or state like dwelling in an emotion, or to linger on a particular thought or idea. However, this particular definition captured me:  a period in a cycle in the operation of a machine or engine during which a given part remains motionless.

At times my life feels like a machine that is constantly humming. There are things to be done, places to go, lists to check off, obligations to meet. There is no “off” button, it’s simply go. But there are cycles, even seasons, where the “go” button needs to be put into neutral. Where, for the health of the machine, it needs to stop and be motionless. The same is true for my life. For the health of my life and even more so my soul, I am called to times of dwelling, times of motionless-ness. But I wonder if I am choosing the “go” over the “dwell.” How many of the things that I am filling my time with are essential, important, necessary? OR are all of those things a push to please myself, to make myself look good, to appear needed? How would my experience change if I chose to do what Jesus is calling me to? What would it really look like to dwell in Him?

As my summer winds down and the busy season of my work life gears up, sleep will easily be lost as the to do list clambers to take over. In spite of the busy, I choose to dwell. I choose to be sustained. I choose to be shielded. My Heavenly Father does those things best.


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