I’ve been having trouble sleeping. I suspect I am not alone. In fact, in conversations with parishioners and friends, I’ve been hearing a lot of people are struggling to sleep at night.
Whether it is falling asleep, or like me, waking up in the middle of the night and then struggling to get back to sleep, many of us are restless.
There are many reasons for this collective experience of sleeplessness. One is the uncertainty in our nation with the election looming. No matter where you are in the political divide, we are experiencing more angst as a country than perhaps any time since World War II, with so much uncertainty not only about the election itself but also about what might happen in its aftermath.
But beyond that, there is COVID-19 fatigue. With numbers rising in Connecticut as well as around the nation and the weather getting colder, a second or third wave, depending on how you count it, is looming. Yet, it seems we are no further ahead than we were in March as far as dealing with it as a country. This lack of cohesion makes it harder to think about holiday plans or a time when we will not feel constrained by the restrictions it imposes.
I read an excellent article the other day about why so many of us are struggling right now as it relates to COVID response, suggesting that we are experiencing ambiguous loss as we are treading water societally and personally, staying in one place and not going anywhere. When the pandemic began, many of us rallied to respond. But right now, that “surge capacity” we initially had is depleted, leaving people feeling empty and filled with ennui. I commend this article to all of you. I believe it is hugely helpful in understanding our human condition during this unique time.
One of the things the article suggests in its superb list of ways to deal with what we are going through is to build a “resilience bank account into your life regular practices that promote resilience and provide a fallback when life gets tough. “Among the ways to do this is to focus on sleep, nutrition, exercise, meditation, self-compassion, gratitude, connection and saying no.
I believe three of these are intricately intertwined. Last week in my devotions, I talked about the importance of gratitude and when that is combined with prayerful meditation, I believe it is an excellent way to promote better sleep.
I recently discovered an outstanding prayer app for my phone that I have begun using twice a day. It is called Pray as You Go. Lasting from 10 to 13 minutes, it uses centering music, Scripture and reflection questions that are based on Ignatian Spirituality, about which I wrote last week.
I began using it as soon as I wake up, before I get out of bed, to focus my day. One of my central tenets in life is to never speak each day until I have spoken to God and never eat until I have feasted on the Word, and this helps me pattern that even more deliberately.
I use it again when I lie down at night. I am aware, and even hopeful, that I will fall asleep as a Iisten to it, as it relaxes my mind and draws me closer to God and the Word. I don’t see a problem with falling asleep while I am praying because it means I awake and go to sleep in the arms of my Savior. In addition, Pope Francis admitted to falling asleep while praying, so I know I am in good company.
Using this process has helped me sleep longer and when I did wake up in the middle of the night, I turned it on again. I have deliberately decided to bring Jesus into my sleeplessness because I know, as St Augustine wrote, that “our hearts are restless until they find rest in God.”
The Psalmist wrote, “I lie down and sleep; I wake again, for the Lord sustains me.” (Psalms 3:5) In the midst of our restless nights, may that be our guide, knowing that when we center our waking and our sleeping in Christ, we can find true rest for our spirit and soul.
Be present, merciful God, and protect us through the hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of life may find our rest in you, though Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Prayer from Night Prayer/Compline in the Evangelical Lutheran Worship Hymnal.)