A Prayer for the Sleep-Deprived
I am tired. How about you?
I am tired all the time. I’m tired of talking about how tired I am. I know I was tired before I had kids – tired from college, tired from grad school, tired from work. But since my first child was born, I have been weary to my bones. This is the happy side effect of answered prayers and growing children.
My husband and I joke that we could sleep for a decade and still be sleep-deprived. This would probably be scientifically true if I did the math. But you know. Too tired.
Sometimes tired feels like a character flaw. Take better care of yourself! Go to bed earlier!
Sometimes tired feels like an inner critic. Stop complaining. Everyone’s exhausted. Move on.
But tired is the plain fact of my life. The contours of kids and work and home and every other devotion and demand to which I give my days and nights.
I love it all, but I am tired.
After a week where we tried to go to bed early every night – tried but got tied up with work again, caught up with chores again, tripped up by something hilarious online again – I’m hiding out during my children’s nap/rest time. Trying to think theologically about tired.
(Which is hard when we stayed up till midnight and then woke at dawn. Again.)
Tired is the antithesis of Sabbath. Since we’re supposed to be Sabbath people, am I failing by being tired? Maybe.
Tired is the cry to God throughout Scripture. The weary words of the people wandering too long, the Psalmist stuck in the pit. Is tired simply supposed to spur me back to God, swap whatever burden I’m dragging for the lighter yoke? Perhaps.
But here’s where I get stuck. Setting aside sleeplessness that’s stubborn or selfish, there’s a certain segment of sleep deprivation that cannot be removed. It is the side effect of sacrifice.
I see it all around me: parents with young kids, parents with teenagers, adult caregivers for aging parents, students working toward degrees, professionals caring for those they serve.
I’m starting to think we’re Sabbath people who are tired, too.
Vocations are tiring things. They wake us in the night. They pull us out of bed in the morning. They keep us working.
So if we are called, then we will grow tired along the way. We haven’t failed. We have given a fully faithful and perfectly human response. We have given ourselves, body and soul.
Children are stirring. Dinner is unmade. Work is waiting. I will be tired again tonight.
But setting aside the moment’s complaints, I am deeply grateful for the bone-tired of my life. I’m called to love. And love is tiring.
A simple prayer for the sleep-deprived
God, I am tired.
Give me rest. Give me peace when there is not enough rest.
Grant me patience. Grant me forgiveness when there is not enough patience.
Lend me clarity. Lend me charity when there is not enough clarity.
Help me love. Help me believe there is always enough love.
And let us not grow weary of doing good,
for in due season we will reap,
if we do not give up.
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