Saturday, October 6, 2007

A Theology of Sleeping

Have you ever thought why we need to sleep? Or a much more fundamental question, what is sleeping? What is the essence of it? Is it simply a biological cycle?

See John Calvin’s prayer below. Read it very slowly. And enjoy each word as if you are chewing a bubble gum.

Lord God, since thou hast made the night for us to rest as thou hast created the day for our work, we beseech thee to give our body a restful night and to grant that our soul may be lifted up to thee and our heart always filled with thy love.

Teach us, O God, to entrust all our cares to thee and constantly to remember thy mercy, so that our soul may enjoy spiritual rest. Let not our sleep be excessive, but let it serve to renew our strength so we may be more ready to serve thee. May it please thee also to keep us pure in body and spirit, preserving us from all temptations and all danger, so that our very sleep may contribute to the glory of thy name.

And since this day has not passed without our having offended thee in several ways, we who are poor sinners make this request. Grant, O God, that just as thou is going to hide all things in the shadows of the night, thou wilt also bury my sins in thy mercy, through Jesus Christ my savior. Amen.

While for most people sleeping might not be too meaningful, Calvin points out the essence of it. Sleeping is not merely a resting state in which the body is not active and the mind is unconscious. It is more than that! It serves to renew our strength so we may continue to fulfill God’s purpose in our lives. It is not merely a biological cycle. It is actually a spiritual activity!

Some of us might have difficulties to accept this idea because we tend to have a dualistic view of life. We like to divide our lives into two areas: spiritual and non-spiritual (secular). For example, most people will regard praying as a spiritual activity and eating as a non-spiritual action. For me, all that we do is spiritual. It is to say that they have a correlation with eternity. It is fundamental that we need to see our lives in relation to eternity. Therefore, sleeping has to do with eternity as well! If we slept well, we would have a better chance to live more healthily. If we had a better health, we would have a better opportunity to fulfill God’s purpose in our lives better. If we managed to accomplish God’s will in our lives, we would definitely know what God would say when we enter eternity: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

For those who are workaholic, whether you realize it or not, please remember that sleeping is not a waste of time. It is indeed a very productive activity. We do not live to work. We work to live. For those who sleep too much, even though you deny it ^_^, please bear in mind that we do not live to sleep. We sleep to live.