Asleep in the Backseat
My husband tip-toed into the bedroom to check again on the four-year-old who had become our son that day. Tucked in with his biological sister, he had finally been willing to switch from a sitting position to lying down. But his eyes were wide open. It was hours before he was able to surrender to sleep.
I remember his first night with us as I consider my own current situation. Somewhere along the way, I have all but lost the ability to rest. A deep and full night's sleep is now rare for me, but that is just one of the symptoms of my rest-less condition. I am usually unable to sit down for very long, always springing up to do some other task that feels urgent. Even when my body is still, my brain seems to be on high alert, with thoughts ranging between my to-do list, nagging concerns, or what-ifs about the future.
It wasn't always this way. I used to be able to sleep almost anywhere. In fact, when I was a child my approach to road trips was a bit of a family joke. Once the car started in motion, I would be asleep in under fifteen minutes, sometimes not waking until we reached our destination.
It wasn't much different in my teen years. On a youth group trip, I once slept from Tennessee to the Iowa border! I didn't only do my heavy sleeping in the car. As a babysitter I would nod off if the parents were out past midnight, and it wasn't easy to rouse me to open the door.
What has changed for me in the years since then? The answer is clear as I remember my son on his first night in our care. He was with virtual strangers, in a new environment where even the language was unfamiliar. My son had no sense of security on that night, no belief that it was safe to close his eyes and sleep.
Lack of rest is tied to a lack of peace. It is hard to still our bodies and our minds, if we believe that our well-being or that of people we love depends upon us. Circumstances such as lack of job security, tight finances, or the life decisions our teen is facing can lead us to believe we need to keep up our guard.
The irony is that so many of the big things that leave us wakeful and wary are outside our control. There is little we can do to prevent company lay-offs, keep prices from rising, or deter someone we love from making a serious error in judgment. And if we do need to make a decision or take action, we will be far more effective if we are rested rather than exhausted.
When I was a child, I could sleep in the backseat because I had perfect confidence in the people at the wheel. I didn't watch the road because I was looking to my parents to get me safely home.
I lost some of that wisdom as I became an adult. If I have forgotten how to rest, it is because I have forgotten that I do not have to navigate life all on my own. I have a loving Father who sees down the road in a way I never can, and he has promised not to leave me at any point along the way.
There is hope for all of us are weary of the worry, strained to the point of breaking from overthinking and overworking. Psalm 121:4 tells us that "He will not let your foot slip - he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep." The God who watched over Israel so faithfully and tenderly is still alert to our needs today.
We can find the rest we are looking for if we choose carefully where we allow our thoughts to rest. It is a matter of directing our eyes away from what keeps us awake and toward the Keeper of our souls. The shepherd-king David said it this way, "I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety." (Psalm 4:8)