CHRIST IN WITER: REFLECTIONS ON FAITH AND LIFE FOR THE YEARS OF WINTER…
SLEEP-MORE THOUGHTS ABOUT IT THAN ARE REALLY NECESSARY [W, 5-9-18]
I have been reading in my grandchild journal, preparing myself for the graduation of our granddaughter from college, and of our grandson from high school. Here is an entry from ten years ago…
The men at the next table at the Moose Jackson coffee shop are discussing sleep patterns. “I slept only three hours last night,” one of them says. “If I sleep too much at night, I can’t sleep after work,” he continues. I do not understand what that means. It sounds like a very strange pattern to try to sleep.
I don’t have time to think about it, though. I have to concentrate on what my granddaughter is saying over her hot chocolate. Concentration is difficult for me this morning because I had trouble sleeping last night. It’s because of her that I had trouble sleeping.
I do not see her as much now that school has started. I usually go to the coffee shop alone, but school is on break today, so we are here together. She used to keep us awake at night because babies and little kids do that to parents and grandparents. So did her little brother, and her mother and her aunt before them. Now they are not babies who cry in the night, but they still keep me awake, worrying about them, praying for them.
It’s not all because of worry, though. Last night I laid awake with anticipation, excited at the thought of being with my granddaughter. I kept thinking about taking her to the coffee shop, and how much fun it would be.
I recall the last day before she started kindergarten. Helen and I took her on a special picnic. We knew we would not get to see her as much as we had once she started school. She was so excited the night before our picnic that she couldn’t sleep. Now she has returned the favor.
Most of us, during our working years, have to get up at a certain time, either to get to the job or school on time, or to get others to jobs or school on time. We set an alarm clock, or we are so used to it that we automatically get up at the right time.
Helen was so used to getting up at five a.m. when she was a teacher that she woke up at that early hour for several years after she retired. It really griped her. She finally had the chance to sleep in, and she couldn’t. At last, though, her brain adjusted. Now she can sleep until eight if her body needs extra rest.
I don’t have a job pattern anymore, a time when I have to sleep, so that I can get up at a certain time, so that my body can fall into its natural rhythm. In retirement, no regular alarm clock is necessary. I don’t have to be any place at a certain time. I just sleep until I wake up. Then I get up.
Occasionally, though, like this morning, I have a required rising time. Because so much of my inside was removed by surgery, I have to hang close to the bathroom the first four hours after I get up. If I must be some place by nine, I have to get up at five. When I have one of those alarm clock mornings, it is harder for me to fall asleep and stay that way.
Some old people don’t need much sleep. My friend, Bill White, slept only a few hours each night in old age. If he couldn’t sleep, he just got up and got things done. I think he had a clear conscience.
It is hard to sleep if you are looking forward to something, either with joy or with dread. It is hard to sleep if you are angry or in pain or worried or guilty or excited. Good sleep requires a clear conscience or a dead one.
What does it mean to have a clear conscience?
The purpose of sleep is regeneration. Dreaming is part of that. It’s part of the rhythm of the body and the brain. Perhaps death, which we often liken to sleep, is just part of the rhythm.
Maybe that is why so many old people have trouble sleeping out the night. Our consciences are not all that bad, but we’re just excited about what the morning will bring.
That is part of Christian faith, that death is sleep, part of the rhythm. We fall asleep in death, but the day of resurrection will come, when we shall be awakened by the alarm clock of God, the trumpeting angels.