In college my buddies nicknamed me Narco-Nattie and I didn’t take offense. I considered it an endearing name because it reflects one of my first true loves: sleep. I love to sleep. In my mind, sleep is luxurious. And so, I’ve never known the thrill of a late-night Netflix binge; I can count on one hand how many times I’ve pulled an all-nighter; and trying to read a book in bed usually ends with the book hitting me in the face or falling to the floor. I’m not narcoleptic, but “Narco-Nattie” seems fitting. If you were to put on a movie, it’s likely someone is going to have to tell me later how it all ended.
It’s just how He made me. If I go a few days below my ideal 7-8 hours of sleep each night, I don’t function well. My physical and mental health depends on it. So, when it came to thinking about a sacrifice for the Lenten season, I cringed when God tugged at my heart to give up an hour of sleep each day. Specifically, I set out to get up an hour earlier each morning with the added restraint of not grabbing for my phone until the hour had passed.
I would love to be writing to you about how well my Lenten sacrifice has gone so far. It would be great to share that God has miraculously provided extra rest and supernaturally dispensed energy, but that simply is not the case. I’m tired. I’ve gotten sick. My waking reflex to grab for my phone has frustratingly not been fully rewired. But, if I look beyond myself, I can seen the fruit of the sacrifice, and isn’t that the point anyway? A first century theologian, John Chrysostom puts it this way: “No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great.”
What has been best about my Lenten practice is not what it has done to change me, but what it has done to better serve my family. That extra first hour of the day does far more to serve my family than my previous ways. Before this Lenten season, my habit was to sleep-in until the big kids were headed out the door for school. I’d brew and sip coffee in the quiet of a still-sleeping baby and otherwise empty house, and I’d ease into the day with some social-media scrolling and devotional time. Sounds pretty ideal, huh? But as good as my routine-fixed husband is about getting half the family going in the morning, the spelling test reviews, packing lunches, finding matching shoes and rogue backpacks – all goes better if there are two grown-ups wrangling the chaos.
What this year’s Lent has shown me this far, is that I had made life patterns by buying into a lie. Sure, the former ways were ideal for MY daily, calm start. (Mommy’s mental health is important for the service of the family, btw). But, in turning over the first morning hour, I’ve realized my old ways are not the only way to functionally thrive. I’ve taken more notice of my last daily, waking hour(s) and have found that I can find my calm in the quiet before I narc-out (or just narc-out an hour earlier.)
“It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.”