guest post by Leah Hartman
Instead, I am content and at peace. As a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms, so my heart is quiet within me. Psalm 131:2 (GNT)
Being an Active Child
My daughter, Claire, is what they call an “active” baby. That’s the nice way of saying she doesn’t nap. Claire excels in many things, but napping has never been one of them. She does (usually) sleep well at night. But naps…ooooooh naps…they’re a real struggle. Since Claire’s first breath, she has fought sleep like you would not believe. Needless to say, my husband, Caleb, and I have gone to great lengths to help Claire sleep. I can count the number of times she has let me rock her on one hand. As a newborn, we would try for an hour or more to help her sleep only for her to wake up cranky twenty minutes later. Then we used the very technical drive-your-baby-around-in-the-car-until-they-fall-asleep technique, which worked well as long as we could successfully get her inside without waking her up. This meant leaving the car running for the dismount and putting her in the closest bathroom with the exhaust fan on. But curse the day she outgrew the infant car seat and that was no longer an option! Since then, naptime consists of a routine complete with an attempt to rock her. But she inevitably refuses and I am left with no choice but to let her cry it out. Claire just doesn’t know how to settle in and settle down. And she won’t let us help her. I will never understand Claire’s aversion to naps!
Except that I do. Because I am Claire. You see, I’m what they call an “active” adult. That means I don’t rest well either. So if it sounds like I’m complaining, I’m not! I am grateful that Claire is the way she is. Because the way she is reflects to me the way I am. (Hmmm…I’m starting to think someone planned it that way! And by someone, I mean Someone.) I’ve learned so much about God and God’s intentions for my life because of Claire. God uses her to save me from myself every day.
While I’ve always known that rest is important, I have a daily, in-my-face reminder of it in Claire. I see the blessings of rest and the burdens without it played out in front of me every day:
• When I plead with Claire to let me hold her, rock her; I consider that God wants nothing more than for me to rest in God too.
• When Claire refuses my participation, I acknowledge that I, too, label certain parts of my life “off limits” to God.
• When I finally give up trying to make Claire sleep, when I bail on trying to control her; I remember that God has willingly given me the freedom to choose between life and death.
• As I listen to Claire cry, I experience just how miserable it is to be left to our own devices, and I recognize my own foolishness to refuse God’s help.
• When I think of all the strategies we’ve tried and the great lengths to which we’ve gone in order to achieve sleep, I am thankful that God stops at nothing until we learn to rest in Him.
• When Claire misses her nap, I own up to how little I can actually accomplish and enjoy about life without rest.
• Likewise, when Claire does nap, I experience just how joyful life can be. We have a wonderful time playing and learning.
Rest & Surrender
Sleep is an act of surrender, and surrender is an act of faith. When I ask Claire to let me rock her, I’m really asking her to trust me with her while she sleeps. When I refuse to rest, I communicate not only that I don’t want God’s help, but also that I don’t trust God to keep the world spinning without me there to supervise. (Yikes. This faith issue is also a pride issue.) But faith (and faithfulness) is what leads to an experience of God, not busy-ness, work, or even play. Rest leads to an encounter with God because it’s an expression of faith. God calls us to rest because God wants what is good for us—God.
The Bible refers to rest as Sabbath. I don’t know what Sabbath rest looks like for you. For me, it is everything from prayer to worship to reading a book to music to coffee with friends. These are all practices in which I encounter God.
As Claire matures, she is figuring this nap thing out little by little (just in time for her to give up naps completely, I’m sure. Ahhh motherhood!) By God’s grace, may the same be true for me and for you.
P.S. You might be interested to know that I’m completely sleep deprived while writing this. I decided to write a post about rest the night before Claire decided to party/cry from 12-4am. That pesky free will! Turns out, Someone also has a sense of humor. Needless to say, I’m off to Sabbath.
Leah will be leading Bishop Dick Wilke’s Lenten study this year – offering guidance and partnership in resting together as we journey through Lent. Join us!
Leah Hartman is a stay-at-home-mom who serves part-time as the Coordinator of Young Adult Ministry at First United Methodist Church in Winfield, KS and an Adjunct Faculty for Southwestern College Professional Studies. She loves people and learning, reading and writing, music and dance, coffee and laughing. She blogs at leah-hartman.com. Leah lives in Geuda Springs, KS with her husband, Caleb, and their daughter, Claire.