The benefits of getting a good night’s rest are fairly well documented. Research has found that getting enough sleep has all sorts of positives. Positive sleep health:
- Improves productivity and concentration
- Increases social and emotional IQ
- Enhances athletic performance
- Strengthens our immune system
- Helps prevent depression, and
- Lowers the risk of weight gain, heart disease, diabetes and inflammation
Getting enough sleep is so important many medical professionals consider it as vital as regular exercise and eating a balanced diet for optimal well-being.
Yet for all these great benefits, when it comes to how long we rest our head on the pillow, many of us don’t get enough of it. A CDC study from 2016 found that over 1 in 3, or 35% of Americans, don’t get the recommended minimum of seven hours of sleep, a night, on a regular basis.
And a separate CDC study finds that 70% of Americans report not getting enough sleep at least once a month. Which makes for an awful lot of us that struggle with this particular issue, at least on occasion.
To learn more about how sleepless nights affect people, I posted a message on my Facebook feed two days ago, asking for personal stories about sleep deprivation. Responses came pouring in; it seems most everyone had something to share. Here’s a bit of what people posted.
Heads up that many of these are pretty funny 😊
Some restless stories involve parents and their young children.
When her daughter Callie was an infant Lori remembers husband Tony wearing a polo shirt inside out, to work. He’d even fixed the collar like it was right side out. Neither of them noticed until he got home that night.
Amanda, who had a newborn and a toddler at the time, one morning only shaved one leg.
Jonna remembers one night her son, who was four or five got up in the middle of the night, staggered down the hall, opened the lid to the garbage can, and proceeded to pee in it. She was laughing so hard she didn’t have a chance to stop him 😊
Other stories involve people just trying to make it through the day. Pam somehow fell asleep in high school band class. While the trumpet section played right behind her. How is that even possible?
Trish was tired enough, one night, that when she finally fell asleep, she was still eating French fries. With one hanging out of her mouth. Now that’s a good look.
Judy was so tired once she was convinced she’d inhaled a nail clipper. Convinced enough to call an ambulance at 3am, ride to the hospital, and get X-rays. Reflecting back she jokes that doctors probably should have tested her for illicit chemicals. Instead, medical staff gave her a clean bill of health and suggested she go home. Their prescription? Get some sleep.
Thinking about what sleep deprivation has looked like for her, Keri Carstens, coolly replied, “I plead the fifth” 😊
A couple of the stories people shared are from divinity school, where future clergy oft pull crazy hours to get through.
Pastor Kim, who I went to seminary with, remembers taking Greek, that was our very first divinity class. To learn Greek she’d get up every morning, at 4am, to prepare. One evening, after staying up late, the alarm went off, predictably at 4. So she woke up, on less than four hours sleep, stumbled downstairs, and poured herself a cup of coffee. She then sat down in front of her computer and took a big swig of the coffee. It was only then when she realized she’d instead poured an entire cup of Jack Daniels whiskey. Yikes! Suffice to say she was awake after that.
Seminarian Steve remembers this one time, after being extremely sleep deprived, when he completed five semesters of grad school 😊
Other sleep deprivation stories hold truths within them downright poetic.
Jess, in a pre-smartphone, pre-GPS era, worked nights as a nurse. One morning, as she slept, her husband decided to take the kids to Denny’s for a grand slam breakfast. Looking for direction, he woke Jess up to ask her how to get there. Jess then gave turn-by-turn directions, which, when followed took hubby and the kids all over Cincinnati. But nowhere close to Denny’s. When Jess woke up later she didn’t remember a thing.
And then there’s friend Mike, an ultramarathon runner. Which means he runs races of between 50 and 100 miles. Which amazes me every single time he tells me of the sport. Recently, after running for over 35 hours straight Mike was scrolling through photos he’d taken during the race. Every one of the pictures, as far as he could tell, were messed up. Some were extremely pixelated, others mixed with the previous picture, still others blurry. He was certain his phone camera had failed. After a night’s sleep, he looked again and all the photos were fine. He’d thought his camera had lost focus. Instead the lack of focus, due to sleep deprivation, came from within.
Teaching, Healing, Sabbath
Jesus, too, knows the importance of rest.
Rest just not for the body, but for the soul.
Christ knows what’s at stake when we don’t get it.
And knows the good that comes when we do.
Before today’s Matthew 11 text Jesus had been busy teaching and healing. Busy sending the twelve out to teach, and heal, in his name.
Right after today’s text Jesus spoke of the importance of being nourished on the Sabbath. And spoke of the disciples having enough energy for the road ahead.
Between all this teaching and healing and Sabbath day feeding sits the text we are to reflect on today from Matthew 11:25-30.
It is at this point Jesus thanks the Father, and makes a claim:
He is the Son of God.
This identity is revealed, slowly, throughout scripture.
Throughout the arc of human history.
Sometimes, rather slowly, even now.
Initially, the Son of God is revealed to those without.
Christ’s identity is revealed first to –
Mother Mary, who sings the Magnificat, praising a God who fills the hungry with good things.
The woman at the well, who has had not one husband, but five. She seeks to drink not just well water, but the living waters Christ offers her that day.
Infants and children. Let the children come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of God.
The identity, of Jesus, as the Son of God, first comes to those –
Without social status,
Without a full voice in the world around them.
In this Jesus takes aim at a cultural assumption as true then as it is now: that wisdom belongs to the conventionally wise. Belongs to the conventionally intelligent. Belongs to the cultural elite.
Alas, this assumption, per today’s text, per so much other scripture, simply is not so.
Wisdom comes from Christ.
And it is for all.
Christ then asks us,
Whoever we may be,
To come to Him.
We, the people that are weary.
We, the people of heavy burdens.
Regardless of age, or gender, or socioeconomic status.
Regardless of who we are, or are not, in this world.
It is in the coming, to Christ, as tired and as burdened as we may be, that the gift is then offered:
Christ offers rest.
Rest for we, the 70%, that don’t always get enough physical sleep.
Rest for we, looking for directions to be fed.
Rest for we, looking for focus on our journey.
Rest for we, the 100%, that don’t always get enough spiritual reprieve.
We are not at our best when we are restless. God knows.
When we receive this rest –
We take Christ’s yoke upon us, pairing ourselves with the divine.
Not giving up our burdens.
The mechanisms of life don’t magically go away.
Instead, we share those burdens, with One well-equipped to carry them.
For it is in this sharing, of our burdens, with Christ, where we learn wisdom.
Not from books, or degrees.
But from the Source, of all that is.
For Christ is gentle, and humble, in heart.
We too, are called to be gentle.
With each other,
We too, are called to be humble.
With each other,
And before our God.
This world will hit you, upside the head, at times.
This is most certainly true.
It will challenge you.
It will exhaust you.
It will make you question, on occasion, why it is that you’re here.
In these moments, and in good times too –
Come to Christ, you who are weary.
And Christ will share your burden,
Giving you strength for the journey.
Come to Christ, you who are restless.
For rest is granted,
For Christ –
Offers us wisdom, gentleness, and humility,
Offers us rest that we so desperately need.
Renews our minds, renews our bodies,
For the –
Road ahead. Amen.