This guest post is part of the Good Ways blog series, a collection of stories and practices for finding God in hardship.
“Why won’t he fall asleep?”
“He’s too tired to fall asleep.”
For me, the “I’m so tired but instead of sleeping I’m going to scream and cry and throw things and/or bite you” phenomenon is one of the most confounding realities of parenting.
It makes no sense.
If you’re tired, fall asleep.
If you are having trouble falling asleep, close your eyes and be quiet and pretend to sleep.
If all else fails, count sheep or try to pray and chances are you’ll just fall asleep.
Generally, sleep is a pretty great thing and I’m pretty great at doing it so I’m pretty unsure why those kids of ours won’t sleep.
Rest is also a pretty great thing. Sleep is a part of rest, but so are quiet, solitude, contemplation, and prayer. God’s good and sacred vision for human flourishing involved a regular rhythm of rest (daily and weekly in addition to times of festival and celebration throughout the year). Rest is an invitation into the fullness of life. In the Scriptures, I think rest is framed as a command not because it is another hoop to jump through, but because rest is a critical component of our humanity. In the beginning, God created humans and not robots, and (even though I have a healthy respect for robots) this was a very good thing.
But a recent week I spent with my family in the wilderness of Yosemite gave me a glimpse of why tired kids won’t sleep. Even in the midst of the beautiful wilderness I had trouble surrendering to the soulful rest I knew I needed.
The mental space I inhabit most of the day is incredibly noisy. There is the hum of technology. There is music blasting through headphones or speakers. There is my digital disorganization, with notes scattered across Asana and Gmail and Evernote and Notes and Dropbox. There are the endless advertisements that pop up from every direction.
Technology does a great job creating compulsive tendencies. When my computer is open, I’ve caught myself loading social media sites in multiple tabs at once because, in scattered moments, my muscle memory takes over, moving my fingers across my keyboard to command + t + f + slight delay for Chrome to autofill facebook.com + return. Throughout the day, my hand instinctually reaches toward my front pocket where I often keep my phone.
Last week, in the meadows of Yosemite outside of the range of cell service, the hum of technology was silenced as soon as we arrived at our campsite but my compulsion towards noise did not diminish so quickly. Even after entering quiet, the muscle memory, the digital allure, the ghost vibrations continued.
I came to this beautiful place to rest and play with my family—to live into the divine command to experience life as a rested human being—but my mind and my muscles were constantly listening for the noisy signals of my everyday soundtrack and reaching for the dopamine device that far too often accompanies me throughout my days.
Eventually, after a few days, I was able to surrender to the silence, but this made me consider: are there new habits or practices I can form that would allow me to enter into rest without experiencing days of digital withdrawal?
Here are a few practices that I’m experimenting with as I seek to live into God’s good invitation and command to enter into rest:
- Regularly, choose analog over digital (i.e. write a postcard instead of sending a text, listen to vinyl over streaming music, binge-read the book instead of binge-watching the show/movie).
- Daily, create distance from technology (i.e. create & protect tech-free space throughout the house, refuse the impulse to start the work day with email, leave your phone at home while taking a neighborhood walk or going on short errands).
- Annually, plan at least one multi-day rhythm that silences the hum. Get into the woods, go to a retreat center, and wear a hole in the “airplane mode” button on your device. Shut off the technology, patiently pray through the withdrawal, and enter into the rest.
Dave Kludt lives and serves in the East Bay outside San Francisco with a group of mostly-young, all-creative, Jesus-following sojourners called Open Door as the directional leader and Pastor of Mission and Formation. He rides bikes and trains, reads and writes as much and as broadly as possible, tries to grow plants, and watches Jurassic Park.