I like to think that my body is holding up pretty well, given that it hasn’t had much sleep since our third child was born last November. “Sleep when the baby sleeps” was the advice I was given with my first. Not surprisingly, nobody has proffered the same advice with the onset of further children. Rest in the daytime is nigh impossible—I have been known to eat lunch standing up—while a full night’s sleep is currently the stuff of (if only) dreams.
Margaret Thatcher is said to have got by on four hours’ sleep a night, but I’m not Margaret Thatcher. And frankly, I suspect, nor was Margaret Thatcher. Humans are not made for non-stop activity. The need for rest is woven into our physical anatomies—ever found yourself in the library longing for a dark, pillowy corner on which to lay your head? It’s woven into the pattern of the day, with its rhythms of day and night, light and dark. Rest is not a luxury, it’s a necessity, important enough to be enshrined in the ten commandments. Exodus 20:8: ‘Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God…’
How many of us endeavour to keep the other nine commandments while neglecting this one? The Sabbath, a day of rest set apart for God as worship to God, is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. Like my mobile phone, which I power down at the end of the day (do you?), we need to power down. Sometimes we need to power down and sleep. Sometimes we need to power down and play. I frequently need to remind myself on a weekend afternoon that two hours of dedicated play with our children is more important than household chores. Perhaps your pastor needs an afternoon watching Wimbledon. We need sleep, we need play, we need a day devoted to non-work. These things are deemed holy by Holy God. We honour God with what we do, with what we don’t do, and with what we sleep through. God is blessed and we too are blessed if we heed him on this one.
My husband is right to tell me I need to turn in earlier. I’d get eight hours if I was in bed by 9pm! And on reflection, if we consider that Jesus walked from place to place and person to person—he didn’t run or go by horse—I wonder if there isn’t some divine rest, some sacred slowness, to be found in our day to day business too.