I want to SLEEP


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This morning when my alarm went off at 5:30, one of my first thoughts was, “Oh my gosh. Charlie didn’t wake up in the middle of the night.” And then I smiled, seriously SMILED, at 5:30 in the morning because I had been allowed to sleep all the way through the night without interruption. This is how much I love sleep.

It’s funny how mad I get about just one middle of the night sleep interruption these days. After all, didn’t I survive having a newborn twice? So you’d think I’d be totally patient about it, because it’s not as if she’s waking me up every 3 hours and then making me sit with my eyes propped open for 20 minutes so she can have a snack. But, honestly, the DAY that newborn phase is over, I go back to being shocked, SHOCKED, when I am woken up in the middle of the night. “What are you doing?!” I want to cry out. “We had an agreement, you and I! I sustain your life for the first 6 months and then you let me SLEEP.” I have a tiny bit more patience when they’re sick. Tiny bit. But that’s it.

So right now, Charlie is in one of those phases where she wakes up in the middle of the night most nights. And I tell myself not to let it drive me crazy but then I’m woken from my deepest REM cycle by the cries of a 3 year old whose blanket doesn’t feel right or book fell off the bed and all my rationality goes out the window. “Charlie. Move the blanket. Reach down two feet and PICK THE BOOK UP. I do not need to be in here for this nonsense.” If she’s going to the bathroom, she can’t just go to the bathroom and get back in bed. She has to stop by my bed, wake me up to tell me she has to go potty, use MY bathroom, cry about how bright the bathroom light is, and then cry when her pants are back on crooked. And then she needs me to carry her back to bed after all of this emotional exhaustion. And then when we get back to the bed we discover that a book has fallen on the floor and we’re back to square one.


The thing is, this really only lasts about 10 minutes, at most, so why does it irritate me so?? Because sleep is one of my many, many idols that I’ve got to put to death. It’s the idol I’ve had to put to death in order to FINALLY start getting up early to read the Word of God and talk to Jesus. And it’s not that sleep is BAD. Obviously sleep is good. God created it for our good. But, of course, we create idols in our hearts when we look at something good God’s created and love it more than we ought to.

From everything I had read and heard, I expected that parenting would be a sanctifying adventure. But that sleep deprivation that came when Reagan was a newborn was the first of many moments that made me go, “Ooooohhhh. I see.” Because I just couldn’t do it. I became an emotional mess. I cried every day, multiple times a day.

I recently heard a woman on NPR describing the three ways people respond to newborn sleep deprivation. She said there are people who handle it really well. Who don’t need as much sleep anyway and aren’t too phased by having a newborn. And then there are people who are somewhat affected. They get really cranky and snippy, but they push through it and are able to function. And then there are people who completely fall apart. I’m in the last camp.


(I don’t even remember this. Or which baby that is. That’s how badly I handle the sleep-deprivation.)

So the reason this is (or has the potential to be) so very sanctifying, is that holiness comes when we admit, “I cannot do this. I’m desperate for your help, Jesus.” And he does it for us. In that sense, that season was a miracle for me. Because I felt like falling apart but I didn’t. I cried all the time but then I had joy. I had to face the fact that I felt like I couldn’t be happy and functional without 8 hours of sleep a night and then learn that sleep is not better than Jesus. Depending on Jesus is actually better than sleep. Well, my body didn’t think that, but my mind learned it. And continues to learn it, obviously.

Of course, that crazy newborn phase subsides and I have to learn how to continue to not love sleep more than Jesus when I’m getting the sleep I need. Isn’t that how our idols work? They come crashing down in the moment of stress, when we see how little they can satisfy. But the moment normal life begins again we start to rebuild those broken idols, piecing them back together. But there are all of these cracks in that idol now, so it’s easily broken again. And again, and again. And eventually I pray I just won’t even be able to piece it back together anymore.

I know this all sounds like a lot of thought about something as small as sleep. But I’ve learned, I continue to learn, that these small idols are the real battlegrounds. Sometimes there are huge idols exposed, but generally we all struggle with many little ones like this one. And we need Jesus in the seemingly small struggles as desperately as in the big ones.

So I thank God for the wonderful, restorative full-nights sleep. But I think I must thank Him, too (when I’m over being so irritated. Or perhaps to GET me over being so irritated) when my 3 year old wakes me up every night. Because it’s keeping that sleep idol smashed on the ground. And there is more to thank Him for in that than in getting a good night’s sleep.


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