When I was a child, I was afraid of the dark.
At least that what it seemed like to my parents, who had to leave the hall light on for me until I was in Junior High. It didn’t help that we lived in a house that was built into the side of a hill and my room had no windows. At night, I couldn’t even see my hand if I waved it in front of my face. I hated bedtime.
But I don’t think it was just the dark that made the nighttime ritual so loathesome. It was the quieting down and the tucking in and the abandon that comes when we finally give in to the diurnal death we die each night lying between the sheets.
To avoid bedtime, I would try to go to sleep anywhere but my room so that I wouldn’t be forced to go to bed awake. Then, my parents would carry me to bed, or walk me there as I got bigger, and the slumber merely continued. If I did find myself up at bedtime, my mom tucked me in and pressed play to one of her Ann Murray cassette tapes. I listened to Danny’s Song and Let’s Keep It That Way every night for years; I knew all the songs by heart. They made bedtime tolerable.
I still don’t like bedtime. I stay up too late trying to finish projects or watching TV, or I fall asleep on the couch trying to avoid going to bed before I’m tired. Since there’s no one to carry me to bed anymore, I wake up sometime in the night and stumble to my room but often find I can’t go back to sleep. And what’s more, I no longer have Anne Murray crooning me to sleep. Instead, I my inner critic condemns me or my inner whiner cries over some injustice. Going to bed late means getting up late, and in between, I’m tired.
It’s just barely an overstatement to say that my entire life would change if I would just go to bed on time.
Sleep is a common casualty of the fast-paced family. Sustained and excessive speeds often shortchange sleep necessary to restore bodies, mind, and souls. But living underrested jeopardizes our health, leaving us susceptible to a wide variety of stress issues.
For me, it’s both the busyness that keeps me from rest, and the busyness that makes rest even more important. And on top of that, there’s something in me that still resists the nightly dying in which all things carry on seamlessly without me in the capable hands of Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath.
In her “Slow Notes,” Ann encourages readers to “go to bed early and get enough sleep.”
“But how many of us fight against a regular bedtime?” she asks.
Apparently I am not alone.
It’s not just that a countercultural embrace of sleep bears witness to values higher than “the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desire for other things.” A night of good sleep—a week, or month, or year of good sleep—also testifies to the basic Christian story of Creation. We are creatures, with bodies that are finite and contingent.
With all this in mind, I have determined that for my Lenten fast this year, from Ash Wednesday til Easter Sunday, I am giving up the hours between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. During this time, I will be in my bed, covers pulled up to my chin, and lights turned out. I won’t be reading; I won’t be watching TV. (Though I may try to find an Anne Murray cassette on eBay.) I will be relearning what it means to stop, to rest, to die that death of sleep so that I may live fully the resurrection of wakefulness.
I am taking back bedtime, for the glory of God.
This post is part of a series I am doing on Ann Kroeker‘s book Not So Fast, considering the implications for singles. Follow the link for other posts on slowing down.