How should an insomniac react to learn that her 98 year old teacher does not need sleeping aids to help her sleep soundly? How does she feel when she sees people sleeping deeply in three different positions side by side like sardines on the sidewalk at 830am amidst noisy traffic?
She is happy for her teacher. How blessed she is! She admires the street people – for their resilience. They sleep where they can; where they are. She even envies them. No pillow, no mattress, no eye shield or ear plug.
Indeed the Lord grants sleep to those he loves.
Psalm 127 reminds
Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
I’m not saying the Lord does not love me. He does… very much. I’m not saying that the Lord does not love insomniacs. I believe that sound sleep is a gift from God. When I was young, I could get up in the middle of the night to change diapers, to breastfeed, to prepare formula and get right back to sleep soundly – and sometimes even to continue the dream I wanted continued.
The wise teacher of Ecclesiastes has this observation about sleep:
The sleep of a laborer is sweet,
whether they eat little or much,
but as for the rich, their abundance
permits them no sleep.
Again, I am not saying that I am rich. Rich is relative. Relative to the street people, I am rich. Yet in the world, there are so many people wealthier than I am, and popping sleeping pills or tranquilizers to help them sleep.
So what is the conclusion of the wise teacher?
16 When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe the labor that is done on earth—people getting no sleep day or night— 17 then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it.
The wise teacher concludes ‘no one can understand what goes on under the sun.’
For a simple-minded insomniac like me, I will charge my insomnia partly to aging and partly to bad habit… One thing I know, I can turn my insomnia into something good. Each time, i cannot sleep, it is another opportunity for me to pray for my family or my friends. Each time, sleep eludes me, it gives me time to think about life, and to write about life. It is another chance for me to reflect about myself – my strengths and my weaknesses, what I need to hang on to, what I need to let go, where to persevere, where to forgive myself and others. And somehow, when I get too tired of all these thoughts and musings, I might be in dreamland once again.
Cheers to all the insomniacs out there!