Even When We’re Sleeping
“There’s no such thing as a bad, short sermon,” I’ve heard it said over the years. In the 20th chapter of Acts, we hear of St. Paul preaching so long that a young man named Eutychus falls asleep and topples out of a third story window. The crowd fears Eutychus is dead but he is revived and Paul returns to his preaching. The first time someone fell asleep during one of my sermons, I had been ordained only several months. As the man came out of church, I teased him: “Hey, I don’t appreciate your sleeping during my sermon.” The man looked at me and said, “You haven’t been doing this very long, have you?”
A lighter opening paragraph to ease into the message that God’s grace and healing powers are so significant that they have an effect on us even when we’re sleeping. Sometimes we’re so concerned with what we need to do to bring about goodness or healing or reconciliation that we forget all those things are gifts from God. Most gifts come to us more despite us than because of us. Some tremendous gifts come even while we sleep.
When Mary Ward and I were first married, we took seriously the adage, “Never fall asleep angry with each other.” To accomplish that, many of our arguments went far into the night. We wanted to solve things so that we could move on. But, after a certain point of exhaustion, we found that nothing good could happen. One night, very reluctantly but so tired we had no other real choice, we agreed to go to sleep and take up the matter the next morning. As you might surmise, when we woke up the next morning, we felt so much better that we worked through our difference of opinion very quickly. Something got healed between us while we slept. Some of it was the new perspective we both had when we weren’t exhausted. But maybe just going to sleep and getting out the way allowed God to heal whatever was amiss between us.
If you’re married and feeling a little distant from your spouse, try this. Instead of sleeping at opposite ends of your king sized bed, get a little closer and make some physical contact while you sleep. Snuggle if you like. If it’s really hot, just a lighter touch will do. I think you’ll be amazed at what consistent contact will bring about in your relationship, even though you’ll be asleep most of the time. Two people can be brought closer just by sleeping close to each other.
A tremendous source of wisdom and healing are the dreams we have at night. Remembering dreams takes some practice but the rewards are great. As you work at remembering your dreams, you’ll notice that things are being worked out inside your brain while you sleep. Even if you never remember any dreams, research shows that our brains are hard at work in our sleep. The restorative powers of the universe are not dependent on my conscious awareness. But, if you’ll remember your dreams, write them down, and trust them to teach you, you’ll find even more tremendous breakthroughs in understanding.
God has created us with the need for rest and sleep. It’s not like we’re dead while we are resting. Actually it seems that we are being made more alive during our sleep. If you’re thinking that everything is all up to you, that you have to pull yourself up and make yourself into anything you are to become, consider that more is probably being accomplished in your life while you sleep than when you are awake. God’s grace and love and healing, perhaps taking advantage of times when our defenses are down, are working to make us new creatures.
There are many things we are called to do and much work we are urged to take on. But it is important to remember that God is doing all the heavy lifting. Even the things we accomplish with hard work are gifts from God. Maybe the most important work we ever do is to get out of God’s way. When we are sleeping, God is still hard at work to bring us closer to salvation.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.