Fellow Passengers: This week’s Poetic Passage* (Proverbs 24:30-34) transports me to Sluggard Field (not to be confused with Slugger’s Field somewhere in baseball land), where the proverbial sage learns wisdom from observing the ruined vineyard of the slacker. Putting heart into the observation, the sage offers an old chestnut of a saying that I heard many times growing up, as my dad would chastise my sleepiness: A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep. . . I don’t remember Pop finishing the saying, though, the part about the sleepyhead being a prime target for thievery and armed robbery. Maybe he didn’t want to doom me to a life of poverty and scarcity.
All this speaks again to Jesus in the Gethsemane garden, where the sleepy-headed sluggards failed three times to keep their eyes open while the suffering savior prayed his last hope for escape from a tortured destiny. The alarm went off and the followers finally awoke, though, when the proverbial armed bandits did break into the prayer meeting brandishing clubs and swords. These thieves came to rob the sleepers of the only thing they had of value: their leader. They came and stole Jesus, acting out of their fear that he was about to give the rebel yell and lead the charge to conquer the powers that be. It didn’t take long for the disciples to fulfill the proverb’s prophecy; in their poverty and scarcity of spirit, they deserted Jesus and fled into the night.
A little sleep, a little slumber. Pop’s voice still rings in my head. But what came so naturally, maybe too naturally, to me as a youngster and on into my adult life, has been an unfamiliar challenge over the past few years. Stretches of insomnia are sometimes short, sometimes long. Some nights find the folding of hands only leading to my mind unfolding and racing through random thoughts, refusing to give in to sleep. And then there are days when I play catch-up, and a lot of sleep and slumber captures me for an entire day. Spiritually, this has to be a metaphor for something, what I don’t exactly know. I do know that the sage was right; scarcity of spirit often accompanies sleep problems, and I find that when I am fully awake I am also most spiritually in tune to God’s presence. I hope to find the proverbial lesson in all of this, to gain wisdom somehow through the experience. And I pray that I will have the presence of mind to avoid the disciples fate, that I will not desert Jesus and flee into the dark night of the soul. While the gospel call is so often to wake up, or to stay awake, I trust that there is also some grace in falling asleep, that there is such a thing as sacred slumber. With that hope, when I’m tossing and turning in the middle of a dark night, I’ll imagine Jesus singing me an Emmylou lullaby: Go to sleep, may your sweet dreams come true. . . When you wake up the world may have changed, but trust in the arms that never falter or fail, just a smile in your eyes it can light up the night, and your laughter is like wind in my sails, cause I know a love that will never grow old. Lean on me, let our hearts beat in time, feel strength from the hands that have held you so long. Cause I know a love that will never grow old. I’m off now to drink some Sleepytime tea.
How about you? Where does this Poetry Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment.