Rockbridge Academy Blog
“I’m not tired! Why do you always tell me I am tired when I am not tired!” Such were the protests from my early youth when my parents knew that I was overtired and lovingly sent me upstairs to bed. Little did I understand at the time that my rantings only added to their resolve to get me the sleep I needed.
How many of us still need this—someone to make us go to bed when we are tired, or insist that we take a break to rest? When so many things press in on us, demanding our time and attention, sleep, or rest of any kind, can seem like the most expendable part of our schedule. But to deny ourselves rest, a break, and even sleep is to behave like children lacking wisdom, obedience and faith.
Brain researchers have discovered something amazing that happens when we go to sleep. While our bodies are still, our brain is performing some important work. Like the cleaning crew that comes into the office after hours, your brain is also busy at night:
“In fact, when the lights go out, our brains start working–but in an altogether different way than when we’re awake. At night, a legion of neurons springs into action, and like any well-trained platoon, the cells work in perfect synchrony, pulsing with electrical signals that wash over the brain with a soothing, hypnotic flow. Meanwhile, data processors sort through the reams of information that flooded the brain all day at a pace too overwhelming to handle in real time. The brain also runs checks on itself to ensure that the exquisite balance of hormones, enzymes and proteins isn’t too far off-kilter. And all the while, cleaners follow in close pursuit to sweep out the toxic detritus that the brain doesn’t need and which can cause all kinds of problems if it builds up.” (“The Power of Sleep,” Alice Park, TIME, Sept. 2014)
When we are awake, the brain is busy handling the immediate demands of the day. Just as we cannot reflect and meditate at the same time we are teaching or having a conversation, our brains cannot run the “daytime show” while simultaneously cleaning up the place and dumping the trash. As teachers and parents, we understand this principle quite well. We don’t try to clean up while our kids or students are around. We wait until they leave or have gone to bed to clean up from the day’s activities. It is the same with your brain. Unfortunately, we often believe the opposite, thinking that skipping sleep (or rest) will allow us to get more done. God’s Word rebukes this notion:
“It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” Psalm 127:2
God, our creator and sustainer, knows what we need, and has told us. But knowing is one thing, obeying is another.
We know intuitively and experientially that we are finite beings; we have limits. The Bible describes us as “dust,” like “grass” and “flowers” that blow away (Ps. 103:14-16). God, on the other hand, is “the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary,” (Is. 40:28). Yet God establishes rest as part of His creation from the beginning: the seventh day is a Sabbath. He commands us to recognize and obey this regular time of rest. And this concept of rest permeates the whole Bible. Type “rest” into your Bible search engine and a theme quickly emerges from verse to verse: rest is a gift from God, and those without it suffer and are cursed. This is stark language that speaks to the seriousness of our self-sufficiency. Weekly rest, our nightly sleep, even routine breaks during each day are acknowledgements that we are not God. Instead, we accept and obey our limits, affirming the order of Maker vs. creature. Rest becomes an act of humble obedience. Obedience that leads to faith.
Going to bed, or simply stopping to rest, can be an act of faith. Our to-do lists often haunt us. But God’s promise is clear, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” (Matt.11:28). This is one of those verses we hear so often that we carelessly cast it away presuming we’ve already grasped the concept. But have we? Do we believe it, not just as some hope for eternal rest, but here and now, today, this moment? Our "Best Self Journals" and "Full Focus Planners" cannot ever give us what only our Heavenly Father can give: that eternal and continual promise of rest. God causes us to lie down and sleep in peace (Ps. 4:8); we wake again for He sustains us (Ps. 3:5). Do you suppose God wants you to work beyond exhaustion or without refreshment? Then listen again, “For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His” (Heb. 4:10). Pray that you would believe it. As Augustine said, “Our heart is restless until it rests in You.”
One more thing: “Good night, sweet dreams.”