I'm in the middle of reading a book by James Bryan Smith called The Good and Beautiful God: Falling In Love With The God Jesus Knows, and it's fascinating. Much of Mr. Smith's work comes from long years of mentor-ship with Dallas Willard and Richard Foster, the gurus of Spiritual Disciplines.
If we're going to wrangle our spirit in a way that mirrors the amount of attention we give our physical bodies at the gym, we may need a little help from the professionals. After all, you wouldn't walk in the local gym and start lifting weights without consulting a doctor or a trainer, would you? (don't answer that!)
At the beginning of the book Mr. Smith talks about the importance of getting your body re-set by paying attention to sleep. America is on the cheap when it comes to getting the right amount of sleep. In the book Mr. Smith quotes Dr. Siang-Yang Tan's book Rest. He shows how in the 1850's the average American slept 9.5 hours a night. By 1950 that number dropped to eight hours, and today the average American sleeps under seven hours a night.
If I were honest, to date I've looked at sleep as a waste of time. "I'll sleep when I die" I used to say "I've got too much to do." But in reality by ignoring the importance of re-setting our bodies is actually doing more harm than good. He goes on to say, "A poll done by the National Sleep Foundation showed that 49 percent of American adults have sleep related problems, and one in six suffers from chronic insomnia."
It's no wonder, even in the old days the writers of the Bible had to encourage humanity to "Be Still and Know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10) It's in our created make up to make sure we get the sleep our bodies need to function at their highest performance.
I'm not sure I can find a study that shows a cross the board optimal number of sleep hours, as many are in conflict with one another. But I can confess in my own personal spiritual development, when I sleep, the day goes well. When I don't sleep, I'm cranky, easily agitated, and seem to drag on and on and on. And I know from my doctor friends, the sleep business is good business. Our reliance on drugs like Ambian, Lunesta, and Rozerem are at an all time high premium, driving us to do more and more as we rely on these sleep aids to get us enough sleep to just keep going.
Sleep is an interesting concept.
We don't really produce anything while we sleep.
We don't really have any agenda.
We're totally at the mercy of whatever happens in our dreams.
It's almost as if we have a submission problem to get enough sleep.
I know, I know, many who suffer from insomnia and anxiety have a different role to play in this argument, but those of us who are just type A get it done people, maybe the first step in our spiritual formation should be to lay down the pride we have that "The World Needs Me To Keep Going" and take a lesson from Mr. Smith to begin by learning how to get adequate sleep.
So for today...The spiritual Discipline of Sleep is on the forefront.