I like to sleep, perhaps too much. Slowly the Lord is stripping away this desire toward slothfulness. You see I am not really a morning person. I do try to get up early to have quiet time but not always. It is hard to get going some mornings! I am definitely not a night owl either, that title goes to my husband. An ideal evening for me is to be in bed by 8:30pm. Sweet blissful sleep! I think I can be most productive around 11am, but even that is iffy.
Part of having a son on the autism spectrum is his inability to stay asleep through the night. He seems to not require a whole lot of it, which for me is bad news. I can be pretty cranky if I have not slept well, especially if those sleepless nights occur one after another. Let me re-phrase that: I am downright ill without sleep (Southern translation: “mean as a snake!”).
I have a beautiful life and I am abundantly blessed, but my life is also messy and broken. Lack of sleep has shown me more than any other trial just how ugly I am in my flesh. God has used this to peel back the layers of my sin. Just when I think I am “doing okay” and “spiritual enough”, I get hit with a holy 2×4 to knock some sense into me!
I do not remember my son having problems sleeping through the night as a baby until he was eight months old. I distinctly remember this because it was over the Christmas holidays and we were visiting my in-laws. Oh my stars that was rough! From that point on it has been a struggle for the little guy. Since Jesse does not sleep well at night he falls asleep sometimes in the most random places. He is well known for catnaps at restaurants, and on other peoples’ couches. A few times he has fallen asleep in the church nursery, on the floor. The other kids did not seem to mind, they just continued playing around him. No big deal.
It has definitely made me thankful for the gift of sleep when everyone in my house does get a good night of rest. Those moments in the middle of the night when he is up for two to four hours, I have a choice to make. I can become Hulk-like in my anger or I can earnestly pray for wisdom and compassion. I admit I often fail to extend grace to my little guy at 2am so when I have a supernatural work of patience and love I know it is from the Holy Spirit. Too many times I would get frustrated with him because I thought he was being disobedient. I would say, “Go. To. Sleep!!” for the 100th time without any success. However, I have learned as a fairly new parent a few things: I cannot make him sleep. I have also learned that his struggle with sleep is not his fault. It is a symptom of an autistic child and research still cannot answer why many with autism have this problem. Is it neurological, psychological, physical, or environmental? The list goes on.
When something as essential as sleep is taken away I see my truest self…and my need for Jesus. More than once I have had to apologize to my four year old for getting angry with him over this issue. I do not know if he even understands, but I say I am sorry anyway. I bend down to his level so his eyes meet mine, and sign ‘sorry’ to him. He signs it back. I explain to him that even mommy sins and I need Jesus too.
It has been a humbling experience to see how truly sinful I am. But then morning comes and God’s mercies are new, His grace is fresh. I am functioning on empty for the most part and yet on those days especially I feel His strength and sustaining grace.
I often have conversations with the Lord (sometimes in frustration) related to His Sovereignty and power to help Jesse sleep through the night, and why this is still an issue. I expect Him to fix it. And yet, God has a much better plan with how to use this trial- April’s sanctification. (Groan). No really, I am thankful for spiritual growth however small it may be, it is just the growing part that can be painful and inconvenient. It is a pruning process, necessary for the best fruit. Jesus is the Vine and His chosen ones are the branches. I must cling to Him as if my life depends on it, because it does.
So, to the mama with a newborn who has yet to sleep through the night; to the parent of an autistic child who sleeps poorly like mine; and to the parent with a child who has trouble sleeping or refuses to sleep, God sees your weary spirit and tired eyes. You offer up a plea to make this stop partly out of frustration and the feeling that you just might go certifiably insane if you do not get relief soon. God sees you and He knows your situation. It may be for a season or it might last a whole lot longer than you hoped. But friend, God can and will carry you through it! I do not know exactly how in the specifics of your life but trust in Him anyway. Those days you find yourself on survival mode, think of a Scripture verse or a worship song to sing over and over again until the attitude of your heart is at peace. “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3 ESV). God is with you exhausted as you are. Remain in Him and see His grace at work. There will be beautiful, vibrant fruit in due season.
Grace upon grace,