The Body – Alice Fryling
Conversations Blog – April 2011
My Theology of Sleep
Sometimes I do not like my body. Especially at 3 am when I can’t sleep. Insomnia is an unwelcome nocturnal companion. It’s in my genes. I can’t get rid of it.
In my better sleepless moments, I pray for patience. Or I try to think good thoughts. In my worst moments, I am angry. God knows I need sleep. I have a big day tomorrow. If I can’t sleep, I won’t be able to wake up for my devotional time (which I really do love) and then I will be tired the rest of the day. Come on, Body, go to sleep!
I have had this conversation with myself, with God, and with my body so many times that it is getting boring.
Then one day I began to wonder why God created humans to need sleep. Why would God create us to work, and play, and love, and then keep us incapacitated for about one-third of our lives? Perhaps, I mused, because when we are asleep we are totally out of control. Surrendering to God’s control is our lifelong spiritual journey.
Enter a personal theological insight: If sleep is a time when we are out of control, then my sense of being out of control when I can’t sleep may be transforming me. Insomnia may be a spiritual discipline of learning that I am not in charge of my life. When I am asleep, I am out of control. When I am lying awake, I am also out of control. My theology of sleep tells me that either state of being is a place of surrender.
As I have learned to welcome my insomniac moments, I am finding my self-surrendering to God a bit more even when I am awake. That is a good thing.
Alice Fryling is a spiritual director and the author of several books, including The Art of Spiritual Listening: Responding to God’s Voice Amid the Noise of Life (WaterBrook Press) and Seeking God Together: An Introduction to Group Spiritual Direction (InterVarsity Press).