so-called sleep

Hello! Each week we will be talking about our thoughts and reflections from Sunday Vigils. These thoughts and reflections will be from various amazing people in our college ministry. This week is our very own Kirstie Wallace!

Last week at Vigils, we met a guy named Jonah. God told Jonah to do something he wasn’t all that happy about doing so he did what any rational, mature human being would do—he ran away. Far away actually, and this week we picked up at the part of the story when Jonah is on a ship headed (hopefully) further away than God is willing to follow him. Turns out, God has a pretty long stride and even the middle of an ocean isn’t too far for Him to catch up. In Jonah 1:6-16, this ship bound for Tarshish finds itself smack in the center of a violent storm. Jonah isn’t too worried though—he’s sound asleep.

This begs a serious question: how can Jonah possibly be sleeping comfortably and calmly in the bottom of the boat when everyone else on board is dripping wet, gripping the rails, and frantically grasping for the nearest life jacket? If I were to project my own story onto Jonah’s for a bit and take a gander at what might’ve been going through his head, I would have to suppose that maybe Jonah just wanted to disconnect for a moment. Disconnect from that squeamish feeling deep in his gut saying that he shouldn’t be running away. Disconnect from that knot in his throat he can’t quite swallow telling him to just go and say what God wants him to say. You see, there will always be a slow, steady ache in the chest when things aren’t as they should be; and I know for me personally, sleep is often an escape from this feeling that I don’t want to feel. Feeling is necessary to be alive though. Only dead things don’t feel. I’ve been praying since Vigils that I would have the resolve not to exchange reality for dreamland. I’m tired of retreating into soft pillows and blankets only to have my heart grow harder in the process.

Yeah, I think Jonah and I have a lot in common actually. I’m also guessing many of you can relate to us as well.  If something inside you resonates with this, there’s a word of caution to be said. Disconnection is a dangerous position.

The natural byproducts of it are apathy, passiveness, the slinking back in life’s cosmic chair hoping to god the teacher wont call on you to answer a question. The problem with this, though, is it just isn’t a very good way to live. Apathy renders us out of pocket for both God and others. Just ask Jonah: the pagan sailors on board with him were frantically trying to save his life while he was snoozing away, symbolically saying to hell with all of you. (You know you’re in bad shape when you would rather sink yourself and others than muster up the energy to stop running.)

Simply put, it’s awfully hard to love people when you’re checked out. I’ve been where Jonah is before (sometimes now if I’m honest) and I’m learning that lethargy is not the remedy.

Austin proposed a possible source of this apathy saying that when we really dig deep, it’s because we just want an average faith. We want the freedom to claim God without giving God the freedom to claim us. It’s not that we have a problem with God (we like Him enough) we just don’t like how ‘intense’ faith can be sometimes. Jonah just wanted to be average. Geez, is that too much to ask? He just wanted to fade into the background and have God forget about him for the time being and move on to someone else.

I completely agree with Austin about all of that. Honestly, it seems like faith demands too much of me at times. There are so many things consuming my energy (school, work, family, friends, etc.) that I often feel like I need a couple of faith espresso shots just to make it to church on Sunday morning. I don’t understand what God could possibly think I have to offer when I feel so drained inside.

Luckily, our discussion at Vigils (and a little soul-searching) helped me to recognize that most of these feelings are just insecurity. I’m anxious that if I dig deep, take God at his word, and tap the well that is faith, it really will only be dry. I’m afraid that if I try to take this whole faith thing seriously, I’ll only find cracked, dried up dirt at the bottom. The thing is, though, I really don’t have a lot to offer—including energy. The key is to admit that to ourselves and to God, and ask for His help. He remembers that we are only dust (Psalm 103:14).

We may not have a lot to offer, but we do have a God that graciously invites the weary and burdened to rest—the same God who calls Himself living water that will not ever dry up. It’s kind of a peculiar paradox. Give up my false sense of “rest”— which tends to leave me more exhausted in the end—for true rest. One is astonishingly selfish; the other makes me available to both God and others.

Basically, really good things can happen when our eyes are open. I want to have the courage to stay awake.