For as long as I can remember, I have had sleep problems. When I was a little girl, I would listen for the ticking of the clock down in our family room and was convinced that the “tick-tock” sound was keeping me awake, so I would quietly go downstairs and stop the pendulum. Over time, the clock broke. I used to wake up my dad, just so that he knew I couldn’t sleep. My mind would spiral through the same thoughts and deep into the night, I would think the same thoughts over and over. My dad would always reassure me by saying, “Remember, Amy, your body is resting whether you are asleep or not.” It always brought me such peace.
During my college years, I lived in a sorority house. We slept in a “cold dorm”—a room full of bunk beds. At times, I convinced myself that I couldn’t sleep. I would be up all night long, spiraling and filled with tears about how tired I was, just like during childhood. I even had a season when I slept at a dear friends’ home who were dubbed my “sponsor family” from the church I attended. They graciously let me stay there free of charge to help deal with my sleep problems.
And now, during adulthood, I continue to go through months and seasons of sleepless nights. I’ve tried all sorts of things: reading, medicine, prayer. I often think about the people all over the world who are awake in different time zones living their life to somehow provide comfort for myself that I am not the only one awake.
As I’ve reflected on these sleepless seasons, I see that usually God is trying to teach me something. As I’ve grown in my faith, and learned to recognize His voice speaking into my life, I am seeing that often He brings clarity and conviction during my sleepless nights.
This happened last week. I had a three-day stretch where I couldn’t sleep. The third night, in particular, I was covered in anxiety. I couldn’t escape my thoughts. They kept spiraling. The next morning, I was eager to write down what I was so anxious about to see if I could sort through any of it and find a theme. Maybe God was talking to me somehow, and my part was taking the time to notice and identify what He was trying to say. I practiced the exercise I wrote about earlier this year, identifying what I feel and comparing it to what I know to be true.
I Was Worrying About My Kids
The first feeling I identified was my weariness in parenting. It is truly not for the faint of heart. It is beautiful, fulfilling, and incredibly hard. We have three teenage boys and one 12-year-old girl. These kids are fighting a world of expectation, hustle, and comparison. The amount of emotions in our house in one day amazes me, especially during this COVID-19 stay-at-home order. Being around them so much has given me great joy, paired with frustration! Having six people in our home creates 30 different one-on-one relationships. On any given day, or in any given moment, there are two people playing or arguing in our house. For as long as I can remember, we have dealt with conflict and practiced trying to resolve it. When they were toddlers it was over toys; now that they are older, it’s over being misunderstood.
In my recent sleepless nights, God was reminding me that my children are really His children, and that my job is to pray for them and trust Him. In my reflecting, I identified that there are so many areas where I want them to open their eyes. I want them to see how empty our worldly pursuits are, and that it’s not about having the newest things or gaining the approval of others. I want them to lift up their eyes and notice what’s around them.
Have you seen the Netflix series Anne of Green Gables? My daughter and I have been watching it and are thoroughly enjoying the character development and beautiful plot line. One episode has specifically stuck with me. It was a 10-minute scene where Anne was playing in the forest, and, like usual, she let her imagination run wild. She noticed all of the nature around her. The birds flitting and chirping, the burbling creek, the crackling leaves, the wispy clouds. She laughed and danced joyfully, as she created music through sounds she heard and noticed in creation. I loved the simplicity and beauty of this scene. As I watched, I found myself longing for my family to have space to engage with creation in the same way. Watching this scene gave me a desire to notice more and for my kids to notice more.
The truth is: I can trust that God is working in them. He is a God of promises. In His perfect timing, He will give them eyes to see. I can’t change their hearts, but He can. My responsibility is not to mend every relationship, but to facilitate peace, and to be on my knees praying consistently. The older our kids have gotten, the more complicated things seem to become, and the more I turn to prayer as my only solution. I thank God for the work that I know He will do through what can seem like a mess, but really is a work of beauty. Because that is what He does. He is in the business of making all things new.
I Was Worrying About Myself
The next feeling that I identified from my sleepless night is my selfishness, which was showing up through my vanity. I was hyper-focusing on things that don’t matter. I wasn’t aware that I cared so much, but He was graciously showing me that I do. I guess it was beginning to flare up in my heart and my affections, and He was bringing it to my attention before it came something bigger.
I was starting to cling to my outward appearance in ways that will bleed over into the way I spend my time and money, which in the end may not honor Him. I don’t know about you, but I have hair that is turning gray, messy fingernails, wrinkles that are appearing, and knees that hurt in the morning. 2 Corinthians 4:16 says, “Therefore, we do not lose heart. Outwardly we are wasting away, but inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” I know that God was gently reminding me to focus on my inward renewal. To read His word, to remember His bigger purpose for me, to not get lost in the outward, but to focus on the inward. I was believing lies of the world in what I should look like, and putting too much emphasis on wanting to fix it.
The truth is: God is actually protecting me from myself. His desire is for me to serve those He puts around me before myself. In a narcissistic world, it is sometimes hard to remember that I am not the focus. He is. It’s humbling just how many times He has to remind me of this.
I can trust that God is working. He is a God of promises, working in His perfect timing.
God Already Knows It All, But He Wants Me to Trust Him
After writing down these thoughts, a theme emerged: My God has this. It’s not up to me. It’s up to Him. My response is to trust and obey by doing the next right thing. Isn’t it kind of God to take His time to wake me up and reveal my hiccups to me? He could leave me to myself, obsessively spiraling, but instead He gently brought me these insights, in the end reminding me that He is in the driver’s seat. While I didn’t have a concrete 5-Step Plan for Parenting and Escaping my Vanity, I did have peace, and I slept well the next night.
The next time you can’t sleep, take some time to take inventory of what is behind your spiraling thoughts. Maybe in His kindness, God is trying to free you from yourself, revealing some new insights so that you, too, can find rest and peace in Him.
You’ll love this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: Grit and Grace, but What About God? – 105!