I love it when someone says it’s good sleeping weather. Most everyone I know has a nice home with good insulation, at least probably to city code, and heating and air conditioning. And yet we still say it on warm fall days that turn to cool evenings, it’s good sleeping weather, like we are all outside on old timey sleeping porches. I will admit that this time of year when you can turn all systems off and open the windows, it does make my heart happy. It is absolutely the best to have it coldish in the room and be piled under the blankets in the bed. Then it IS good sleeping weather.
Until it isn’t. Those nights when sleep won’t come. Or it comes but doesn’t last. Or it lasts but it’s not deep enough to not be somewhat conscious and feel like you probably didn’t sleep a wink. What’s that all about? Do you count sheep? Whenever I’ve tried that after about ten of them and I’m not asleep I start naming them starting with the letter of the number they are . . . One Orville; Two Tessy Mae; Three Thor; Four Fumblina . . . I didn’t say I named them normal or pretty names necessarily. Then I get caught up in how unique I can be with names for how long and the game becomes more interesting than sleep.
It’s easy on sleepless nights to think about all the things left undone, from the day, the week, the year, the life. It’s easy to think about all the mistakes, the messes, the missed opportunities and wonder if it really is true that once God forgives you, God forgets even if you can’t. By the way, I do in fact believe that’s completely true, at least for everyone else, right? When all that starts happening I try and focus on a word, then on my breathing, then putting those two things together. Or breathing in grace, breathing out stress; breathing in relaxation, breathing out worry; breathing in gratitude, breathing out frustration; breathing mercy, breathing out mercy, breathing in mercy, breathing out mercy into the world. Sounds a little like the gospel, not a bad thing.
Also true is the tensing and relaxing of each part of your being from the top of your head to the tip of your toes or the tip of your toes to the top of your head. It’s amazing what that will do – try and scrunch the top of your head and then release; and your eyes, nose, and ears, and then release; and your neck and shoulders (that’s where my stress centers) then release – and go all the way to your toes and then back up again if you need to.
Why all the techniques? Because this should be good sleeping weather and if you’re like me, it sometimes simply is not. Some of our clergy and staff met this morning to visit about All Saints Sunday, November 7 this year, because we want to do something particularly meaningful and special – watch FB and other platforms upcoming for more info. A snapshot of what we are planning is a luminary worship and walk in our outdoor worship area and the labyrinth. That’s all the detail I will give now, but the spirit of it is to help ALL of us name what a difficult chapter of history we’re living through AND to move into a season of gratitude because we have each other for mutual support, strength, encouragement, and hope.
I’m guessing Jesus had no few amounts of sleepless nights over the years he spent before, during, and moving into the last chapter of his ministry on earth. If we think his followers and disciples were easier to deal with than we are now, we’re probably dreaming. From tax collectors, to fishermen, to political zealots, to cynical doubters, Jesus included them all on his team; and then invited women to travel and evangelize along with them. So no, I don’t think humans in his time were less messy, diverse of opinion and life experience, or prone to resentments and disagreements than we are. Were his sleepless nights wondering if the movement would last? Wondering if folks would still see faith in God as relevant and remarkable during the interim years before and between life and eternity? The more things change, the more they stay the same.
I finally don’t think any amount of helpful techniques will do away with sleepless nights that sometimes happen for all of us. I’m not sure any of us, including a pastor or two you might know, rest consistently and confidently every single night in the peace and assurance of God’s forgiving grace. And I don’t really know that figuring Jesus had sleepless nights worrying about humanity makes our sleepless nights anymore comfortable. And yet, and yet I do believe naming all these things in faith can make a difference for us. In other words, not pretending because we have faith we don’t worry, or pretending that if we don’t acknowledge something in our lives, it will simply go away and leave us alone. Sometimes we can’t sleep simply because we can’t sleep, or because caffeine after 6 when you’re over, oh I don’t know, 50 something??? But if there are times that sleeplessness is anxiety, judgement, fear, anger, or some other feeling we can’t seem to erase; turning to our faith to realize we’re not alone, to realize we have a forgiving God who walked the way for us and now walks the way with us, and naming for ourselves and God that which has a hold on us may just make for better sleeping weather.
Here’s to warm days and cool nights, the comforting presence of grace, and some peace when sleep happens, and most especially when it doesn’t.