“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on…”
I have always loved sleep. My husband’s relationship with sleep is difficult. He is a light sleeper and often struggles to fall asleep at night. But not me. Sleep and I have a good relationship. I sleep deeply – often within a minute or two of my head hitting the pillow. Sleep is my superpower…unless I have a new baby.
I have found very few things as stressful as the sleep deprival I went through after the birth of both our boys. There are few things I have begged for with more passion than that the Lord would help my baby to sleep. I have been super invested in sleep training, in sleep diapers, in rice cereal, in nap schedules. And when I have done everything in my power and the baby wakes up anyway because he has an ear infection or he’s teething or he has some other mystery reason I’ll never get to the bottom of, it. is. maddening.
This month, I felt the Lord gently prodding me to dig into why I was SO determined to get the good night’s sleep that seemed ever out of reach. Beneath the determination, there was fear. And so the real question surfaced: Why does being really tired scare me so badly?
Well…it’s because I hate failure. I am wired to plan, to prepare, and to arrange my life with intention. It soothes me to have anticipated a need and adjusted for it ahead of time; to have a contingency plan mapped out and everybody on the same page for what’s next. Good sleep, I realized, is one of the ways I set myself up to avoid failure. When I’m rested, I can take a lot in stride. When I’m exhausted, my anger is so much harder to control. I get irritable, forgetful, and emotional. My threshold for overwhelm drops significantly, and I tend to react, especially in my closest relationships. Poor sleep is a great humbler; it exposes my need for mercy.
So good sleep had become, to me, the holy grail that would make it possible to get through my day without damaging my relationships, without failure, without regret. For as hard as I tried, as much as I begged the Lord to help me walk with the Spirit, I had not found a way to just nail it after a night of poor sleep. A screw-up was inevitable. And so I grew more desperate. If only the baby would sleep!
But any time I hear myself say the words “If only…,” I know discontentment is at work in my heart. And whatever I’m wishing I had isn’t actually the solution.
“…be satisfied with what you have. For God has said,
“I will never fail you.
I will never abandon you.”
So we can say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper,
so I will have no fear.
What can mere people do to me?”
Be satisfied with what I have. Right now. Even with the amount of sleep I’ve been given. Even when it doesn’t feel like enough. So instead of trying SO hard to get sleep so that I won’t fail and lose my temper when I’m tired and irritable, I started praying that I would grow in how I recover from failure.
My main goal cannot be to perfectly set myself up so that I never make a mistake. That is just not real life. But maturity gets good at moving forward from mistakes; that is a good goal. As I prayed for this growth with one of my friends, she prayed for me, and she thanked God for his mercy when we fail.
It occurred to me that we recover well by shifting our focus from our failure to His great mercy. From our badness to His goodness. From our disappointment to excitement about the total covering we’ve been given in His perfect forgiveness. The blood of Christ is a completed shelter, and it has no leaks.
“…But as it is, He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
…For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
…Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
–Hebrews 9:26, 10:14, 22
We can confess our sin and at the same time lead our kids and our own hearts to delight in Him because He has made us free. And this, more than a mom who never shows frustration, may be just what their little hearts need, because I’m not the only one who needs to learn how to recover after losing my temper.
I am so thankful that you forgive me each and every time that I fail. Thank you for setting your love on me and for giving your life to pay completely for my sin. Teach me the art of acknowledging my disobedience while I rejoice in your perfect obedience. Let the weight of my focus not be these brief and passing faceplants on my part, but your goodness, your mercy for me, your unfailing love and preference for me, the perfection of your plan that anchors me securely to the end of the race, to your lasting victory, to your once-for-all sacrifice, to the day when I have overcome it all and I am completely like you.
May my sin ever point me to my Savior so that I do not wither in discouragement, but I overflow with
“Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Jesus!
You did what I could not. You died in my place. You’ve anchored me to your new life. You’ve already forgiven me completely. Beautiful, understanding Savior. Thank you for looking on me with love and giving me your strength and your mercy to walk forward.”