Sleeping for Sorrow

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A few years ago, I wrote a piece for CommonGrounds Online called “Staying Awake.” Its premise, in a nutshell, was to call believers to stay awake even in the suffering seasons. My example came from Luke, when the disciples could not stay awake with Jesus as He sweat bled and wrestled with the Father’s will. The Only the gospel narrative of Luke says it was “for sorrow” that the disciples slept [22:45]; the three could not bear to be with their friend and face his pain with Him. His inner circle checked out.

I still stand by that call. The gift of “presence” is beyond treasure. As Margaret Guenther suggests in The Art of Spiritual Direction “compassion is never a cheap or easy gift.” It costs to stay awake, and so many of us fail in the face of our friend’s struggle.

While sitting at the hair salon, recently, I was eavesdropping on a conversation that helped me give myself compassion–the uneasy gift–for the times I’ve been unable to stay with my friend, or even myself, and chosen to shut down.

A mother was telling of the death of her son’s friend. Both have Down’s syndrome, a chromosomal disorder I’ve perceived to produce especially sensitive and kind people. The mother told of revealing the death news to her son. The son simply yelped and ran to his room to sleep. At the funeral, the son stretched out across the pews and slept through the service.

Perhaps those among us who are especially sensitive to the fallenness of our world and the enemy of death need extra care, the gift of sleep. We may be the ones who feel that we “must” be there for other people. Maybe repentance for us is trusting God to meet a person’s needs without us. God certainly took care of His Son when His friends had failed Him; He sent His angels to comfort Jesus. Perhaps if we’re prone to sleep, we need to repent and be present. The Spirit will tell you which will be your gift. 

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