Wake up, sleepy heads!

Sleep has always fascinated me. Something about absence making the heart grow fonder, perhaps. Via Wired today there’s a great article about science’s renewed interest in sleep: why do we do it? Fish die quicker without sleep than food… It is essential to all mammals.

One interesting perspective it raises: the more sensible question is perhaps "why do we wake up?"

[When we are awake], the body’s metabolic system shifts into the catabolic
phase. The body’s cells are tearing themselves down in support of the
body’s need for energy to be mobile, to obtain food and to procreate.
It’s something that the body can only tolerate for a matter of several
hours. Then the body must revert to it’s ‘default’ mode of sleep, the
anabolic phase when damage is repaired, growth can take place and the
body’s heightened immuned defenses intensify their battle against the
foreign organisms and viruses that have invaded the animal.

I had a hunch in an article I wrote for EmergingChurch.info that sleep is the time when the brain properly ‘networks’ memories and experiences. Without sleep time, our minds have no time to reflect, to make connections, to learn. Without sleep, we’re just default impusle/response machines. The point? The church needs sleep time. Without times when the body rests, it can never reflect and learn, it’s thinking can never evolve.

I think this is still vitally true. Without sleep, churches, like fish will die. But the question about why we bother to wake up at all is relevant. If we just remained asleep we could never reproduce.

For some of us, we need to heed the call to ‘wake up’. Others need to be sent to their rooms. All of us need a balance, of waking and sleeping, of reflecting and acting. It’s a pattern we see Jesus modelling in the gospels. Time away, time doing stuff. And in the target-driven data-mad world of industrial church it’s important to realize the significance of doing that. But, in the sometimes horizontal world of the sleepy emerging church, it’s also important we realize we’ve got to get out of bed and get one with the work.



4 responses to “Wake up, sleepy heads!”

  1. Thanks for this post brother. For me, these thoughts certainly validate the cessation of religious “activity” to make room for the spiritual disciplines of silence, solitude, and rest.

  2. Absolutely Bill. Very important. And to really rest. Not just ‘holy rest’ where we spend every minute reading some very spiritual book when we’re on retreat.

  3. There’s a line in a Ben Lee song I like:
    “Awake is the new sleep”
    Very prophetic.