It’s been a kind of…up and down week. Not in an awful way, but I’ve been somewhat frustrated with myself. I’ve been feeling strongly for a while, a long while, that I really ought to be prioritising prayer and Bible study, quiet time where I wait on the Lord, far more than I do. Because I try to get everything else cleared out of the way, and sometimes that becomes an excuse to avoid, and then go to pray and study. Or I tell myself I’ll get up early to do it, and I suck at getting up in the morning. The object at rest would love to stay at rest.
So I’ve been inconsistent, feeling somewhat guilty and other times making excuses like my Thursdays are busy, and then Fridays I catch up on sleep, and then I’ll just watch one episode while I eat lunch, and then it snowballs from there. Saturday I have all day to study, and I often end up putting it off because I have an abundance of time. Until I have no time left, and Monday I’m rushing to cram in everything I meant to do all weekend. It drives me crazy but this has been my cycle, unless I have some commitment that I feel will directly affect someone else.
This last weekend things became worse. I started sleeping a lot. Like a lot, a lot. Friday I had some work. Saturday I was volunteering at my church in the evening, and so I wanted to have some time to myself before I had to spend part of my introvert-recovery day around people. I did not want to be around people. I was definitely wrung out from people from the rest of the week, and was hopefully I’d get to leave early (and I did). But I spent most of the day sleeping beforehand, even took my temperature because I thought it was weird I was so inclined to sleep. Then Sunday I had the usual church services, and then went home. Ended up napping for several hours. And my schedule was all out of whack, but it was definitely way more sleeping than I usually need, even with catchup from a busy week figured in.
It reminded me of how I felt a few years ago when I would spend the better part of the day in bed, usually asleep. School would be finished up for the year, I would be waiting for work to start, and I just…slept a lot. Too much. It scared me a little because I really do not want to cycle through that depression again. And it’s been so long since I felt that way, not having a defined stressor that made me inclined to nap for an hour here and there, but wanting to be asleep almost every chance I got… I thought maybe it was the weather, but that didn’t satisfy the dissonance I was experiencing. I thought maybe it was stress from people, that I was more affected by not having a full day off than I realised, but the timeline didn’t quite fit. Then I thought, briefly, it was because I was neglecting prayer and study. Regardless, I didn’t figure it out, I just tried to get myself in gear, and I did do better when I got up and started working on things like cleaning my kitchen, cooking, prepping for work, etc.
Tuesday night I spent a good chunk of time in Bible study, finally, and that helped too. The feeling was passing, definitely, but the memory of it still bothered me more than I cared to admit at the time. Then Wednesday I had planned on getting up earlier in the morning, as I had the first part of the day off, and finish Bible study for the week. And I hit the snooze button a few times, and reset my alarm, and eventually I think I just shut it off. Same cycle starting up again. Sometime in there, though, I had this dream. I am not the kind of person who thinks everything means something mystical, I am definitely not the kind of person who looks for meaning in all of the randomness of her brain processing things and amusing itself all night. But this dream struck a chord, so whether divine message or subconscious processing, I’m going with it.
I dreamt that I was in a hotel room, and the alarm went off, and I rolled over and went back to sleep. When I did get up, I realised my Mom had been waiting for me, and she was disappointed and rather sad, not in an accusatory or guilt-tripping kind of way at all, but sad that our time together was cut short. There were things she had hoped we could do together. And then I found it later in the dream that because I’d slept in and missed the checkout time, she had to pay extra for the hotel room. Later in the dream (skipping the stuff that’s foggy), I realised I’d better get working on my thesis, and my other term papers too (I have none right now, but dream ‘me’ did). My next thought was that I needed to go into my research mode, where I spend every spare moment reading and researching, taking notes, planning my papers, and then writing, editing, formatting, etc. I know this mode well, I’ve spent most of my adult life in university, and I love it. It’s exhausting sometimes, but I love getting to dig in, and I know the discipline and dedication it requires to do this well.
This was where I woke up, a bit disconcerted but not really sure why. Mildly annoyed with myself that I’d slept so much again. I got up and began getting ready, and slowly my thoughts sorted themselves out, particularly when I got back into my Bible study. I realised three things. First, that I need to stop spending my time asleep. Not just physical sleep, although I need to be careful of that (I love sleep, naps are beautiful, good sleep is healthy and important, but too much sleep can be a sign that something else is amiss in my life), but spiritual sleep. I keep going back to sleep. I keep putting off what I know I need to get up and do. I keep avoiding rather than doing and studying and seeking God. Which brings me to the second point, that this is the time, right now, when I need to get into study mode. And not just for my thesis, although that was definitely part of it (I have actually wondered if maybe I was pursuing something that wasn’t God’s will for me, that perhaps this was my plan and not God’s plan and perhaps I should drop it, that this was why I was unmotivated sometimes, but this was fantastic confirmation that no, this is where God wants me, this is important, this is where I’m supposed to be, and I’ll come back to this rabbit trail later). But for the prayer studies I’m supposed to be working on, all the Bible study stuff and devotions and the actual practice of prayer that I ought to be working on – it is not a coincidence that people keep recommending all these phenomenal studies to me and I keep getting these answers to things I have been asking about and praying about and seeking some halfway satisfactory answer for now. Here. In this church. Under my current pastors and the various other wonderful leaders and friends there.
And third, that there is a cost, a real cost, when I spend my time asleep. When I don’t do what I ought to do. I don’t write this in guilt, just…it’s a solid realisation that it isn’t just about me. It’s more than me pulling an all-nighter to catch up, there’s fallout that affects people around me. Not just my Mom, although if God wants to get my attention about how I’m affecting someone negatively and uses my Mom to drive that point home, I really don’t think there’s a more effective way for Him to do that. Which obviously, God would know. It’s not just my Mom. It’s my church. It’s the people I serve with. It’s people at work and school. My advisor, who is going to smack me for taking so long on this thesis, and has every right to. It’s my family and friends.
And then to top all this off, I think God allowed (not caused, but allowed) me to slip back into that old habit of too much sleep this weekend. I also had started turning to some distractions and substitutes for God, which I have since removed from my life (again). I wasn’t seeking Him, I was hoping for fulfillment of some kind where I knew from so much past experience that I would not get it. And I went right back to being mired in that kind of…out-of-touch place where I slept, and functioned more at night when almost no one was around, and I did little of substance, and just sort of drifted until I had to get up and go somewhere. I can’t even decently describe it, it’s kind of a Twilight Zone kind of feel, and it scares the hell out of me because I so do not want to be in that again.
So points have been driven home. I knew in my head that I needed to pray daily, I needed to spend time with God, I needed to draw near to Him, I needed to study diligently, I needed to prioritise my relationship with Him. And now I know it experientially, and I have some jarring (in a good way) memories and impressions which will keep that need at the forefront of my thoughts, even when I am tempted to let busyness crowd it out. Today has been better. Tomorrow will be better still. God is good and He is faithful.
Which brings me to the previously abandoned rabbit trail. I realised while spending some much-needed time in prayer super early this morning that I have avoided the thesis because I am afraid that I’m not going to measure up, that I don’t actually know what I’m doing, that everyone is going to realise I’m not nearly as smart as they think I am. That I’m going to let everyone down. Queue that Bible study, which was almost brutally challenging this week (which I needed), and then ended with one of the most encouraging lessons I’ve ever received. God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called. He knows everything that’s going on in my life, He knows me, He knows what I need, and He doesn’t call me to do anything that He is not entirely prepared and capable of accomplishing in and through me. But the key is He does it. God prepares me. God teaches me. God shapes me, brings the people and opportunities, the studies, the experiences, even the heartaches and trials (that sounds so overdramatic, but sufferings felt grammatically weird), that I need. It doesn’t depend on me, I was never meant to take the assignment and figure it all out on my own. I was designed to depend on God, and when I don’t do that, then I end up terrified because I don’t know what I’m doing. But God does. And after struggling for a long time about why I was avoiding my schoolwork and how to deal with that, this is the first thing that feels and sounds like a satisfactory answer.
I still have a shit-ton of work to do, but I know where to look now. God is good. God is faithful. So every spare moment is the order of the day now. Every spare moment I seek, I study, I pray. Which, it turns out, is a lot more satisfying than sleeping.