Reading time: two minutes.
Here’s what I’m not going to recommend in our “Summer Shape Up!” series: catch up on sleep over the summer.
Most of the studies suggest that while it is somewhat possible to make up for lost sleep, not so much. If you’ve been sleep deprived for a long time, well, there’s not much you can do except change your sleep habits on a more permanent basis.
That’s what I’m going to suggest.
I think my story is pretty typical of us over-functioning church workers. I’m still learning to take care of myself in this way, but I’m definitely enjoying the benefits of getting new sleep habits.
I was definitely one of those, “I’m different than everyone else. I get by on just a few hours of sleep every night!” kind of guys. I fooled myself into thinking that for many years.
I also thought sleep deprivation was a sign of a superior dedication and commitment. What I failed to realize for a long time was that I was not as a good of a pastor and servant of Christ and His people when I was under-rested. I can’t help thinking about Elijah’s exhaustion depicted in 1 Kings 19. After fleeing Ahab and Jezebel, he took a long rest, and after the Lord woke and fed him, He sent Elijah back to bed again!
God had work for Elijah to do and he needed to be at his best.
As I was growing older, after years of running on adrenaline and willpower, I started to recognize that the daily afternoon fade into a struggle against sleep was not normal. I was not making the most of my days… or my nights.
Carol has always been better at recognizing her need for rest, and she helped me make a new commitment to getting the rest I needed. Sleep was the missing component in my wellness plan.
For me, it took the form of a promise to stay in bed every night for 7 1/2 hours, regardless of whether I was asleep or not. Even if my body (which I had faithfully trained over the years!) refused to sleep, I would stay in bed until I learned.
It took me months to retrain my brain and my body to learn how to sleep. I still struggle with it sometimes, but I stick pretty much to that practice: “Stay in bed, Darrell. You’re better at everything tomorrow when you get your rest tonight.”
Years ago I was visiting my pastoral counselor friend and lamented, “Sometimes I feel like lying down in the middle of the afternoon and taking a nap!”
He said something I’ll never forget. “What are you talking about? See that couch you’re sitting on? I’ve taken a 20 minute nap on that couch every day for the past 26 years!”
Oh. Good idea.
Learn how to get the rest you truly need. You’ll serve better because of it. Thanks for reading.
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