Sleep is a reminder of our mortality. The threshold of sleep is the very edge of life. 'Sleep is a gift of death,' [Dr. Albert] Rossi said. 'In sleep we have no more money, memory or consciousness. Each night we experience a small death as a prelude to our ultimate death, and each morning we experience a small resurrection.' George McDonald echoed his sentiments, saying that in sleep our bodies are 'sown in weakness, but raised in power.'" (Jenny Schroedel, in A Third of Our Lives, on Boundless.com, May 11, 2006)
There are things about being embodied, about being human, that are just a part of who we are. Everyone eats. Everyone drinks. Everyone sleeps. All are such a necessary part of who we are made to be that we simply take them for granted (except on the rare occasion when we are forced to go without one or more). But we post-moderns think that we can defy these creational "ordinances." The lights are on 24/7. You can shop at Wal-Mart at 3:00 a.m. You can eat dinner or breakfast then as well. And of course you can surf the internet anytime as well. You choose. But we do so to our detriment.
These regular needs cannot be ignored and, in fact, were given by God for our enjoyment and sustenance, as reminders of our finiteness, and as metaphors for our deeper spiritual needs. I'm particularly interested in these latter two, and our need for sleep is a great example of both. We are limited. Unlike God (who, deep down, we aspire to be), we cannot be "on" at all times. We must shut down for rest. In sleep we are vulnerable and we are without possessions. That we wake is up to God. That we wake each day is a small miracle in and of itself.
But more than that, sleep is a rich metaphor for the dying to self and rising to life that we daily experience in Christ. Daily we sleep. Daily we die to self. Daily we wake in newness. Daily we are are new creations, dead once again to our past sins. When we attempt to be god of our sleep, to neglect it, to treat it as subject to our command, we grow weary and sleepless. The natural order of things is upset. And I suspect that spiritually we become confused as well.
When my family leaves town, I am lost. I do not sleep when I should. I eat at odd times. I work too much. I wander my house in search of, well, the regular patterns of life. I am in my house but not quite home. And spiritually I don't know what to do with myself.
You know, the people at Wal-Mart at 3:00 a.m. do not look happy. They look lost. You can't play god. We need to obey patterns of eating and sleeping that have been set for us. And we need to cherish these reminders of our dependence on God and rest in Him.