A Soulful Place: Taking the Pillow from Battleground to Sacred Space
August 6, 2017
R.I.P. "Rest in peace" is usually reserved as a benediction for the dead. But it is the living who need restful sleep, and this is only an elusive dream for many American adults.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in three American adults do not get the recommended seven hours of sleep each night. Ten percent of Americans suffer from chronic insomnia.
Insomniac or not, most of us find ourselves reluctantly awake at some point-especially in these unsettling times. When sleep evades, the pillow becomes a daunting battleground as the mind grapples with people and problems, rummages through the past and mulls over the present. Tomorrow imposes its own additional threats.
In a recent Christianity Today article entitled "God Wants You to Get Some Sleep," Kate Shellnutt suggests that sleeplessness can be a spiritual problem. Scripture itself reinforces this view and also emphasizes the physical benefits of sleep.
In Genesis 28, we find Jacob in need of sleep. He's just successfully pulled off a plot to steal both the birthright and blessing from his older twin. His brother Esau is seething and wants to kill Jacob, and his parents urge Jacob to run for his life to Haran and live with his uncle until things cool down.
Even with all this weighing on his mind, Jacob sleeps that night. The stone propping up his preoccupied head turns into an altar of praise the following morning. Having seen a ladder of angels in his dream and hearing from God, he declares his hard pillow-stone a monument and pours oil over it. He names it Bethel-"House of God."
Your pillow, like Jacob's, can be a sacred space, a sanctuary dedicated to worship. Whenever the battle for sleep arises, claim your pillow as holy ground. The classic childhood prayer works: "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep." And add a line from a table grace, "Come, Lord Jesus be [my] guest."
Each night, draw near to God. Extend the invitation through a simple sleep liturgy. Expect the giver of peace and sleep to show up. Press into His presence with a hymn or line of Scripture. Let your praise ascend and allow God's mercy and grace to descend.
Contemplation has the power to push fears and worry to the periphery while peace and trust take front and center. Sleep may come, but even if it delays, offer up your wakefulness as a spiritual sacrifice.
In the story of Jacob's dream, God and a host of angels visit him. The divine vision and words of promise stir his heart. One dark and tumultuous night turns holy, and Jacob literally sleeps in heavenly peace.
Bedtime is a soulful opportunity. Instead of preparing to battle your way to shut-eye, prayerfully plump your pillow. Hush the chaos. Tune your heart to hear the Holy Spirit's still small voice whisper: "When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet" (Proverbs 3:24, NIV 2011).