I am the senior pastor of St. James United Methodist Church in Tampa, Florida. These are my thoughts about faith, life, family, church, and a lot of other important and unimportant things.

“Sleeping” as a spiritual discipline

Last Sunday as we were exploring what the Bible says about managing the pace of life, I made an off-the-cuff comment about a Sunday afternoon nap as a potential spiritual discipline for people who get caught up in living life at an unsustainable pace. Later that day, a couple of parents teased me about giving their teenagers permission to sleep all Sunday afternoon. (As if their teens needed my permission or God’s blessing!)

Even though my comment was off-the-cuff, it was not unplanned or inappropriate. I really believe that, for some people, getting more rest is a spiritual issue. We live in a society that encourages living outside the normal operating limits of our bodies. We glorify those who say they can get by with 3-4 hours of sleep per night, even though science strongly supports our need for 8-9 or even 10 hours of sleep per day—more for children and teens. As one psychologist told me, the science is there, but no one wants to hear it. We think we can live outside our design limitations without consequences in order to be more productive, but in reality, we’re actually hurting our productivity by lack of sleep. (As if “productivity” were the all-encompassing, number one reason why we exist. I think God might have something different to say about this.)

Science strongly supports the contention that sleep is the most power antidote for stress known. We’re going to talk more about stress this Sunday during our worship services, but consider this: Before the industrial revolution, people slept on average 9 hours per night. Sleep researcher say that most people, left alone, will quickly settle into a 9-hour sleep pattern. They also say that teenagers need an hour more than that, and the average child starting school—K-2nd grade—should be getting around 12 hours of sleep per night. How are you doing by comparison? How about your children? Do you ever wonder why they fall asleep in their Corn Flakes? Chances are they’re living outside their God-given design limitations.

The psychologist I mentioned earlier said that the two main problems contributing to stress today are pace of life and little recovery time. The body was designed for camel travel, yet look how we live today! And we wonder why we’re so stressed out. If you push the body beyond the limits of its design, something will eventually break. Many of us are exceeding our design specifications as we go through life, and we’re paying the price.

We’ll be examining stress this Sunday, when we finish our “Balance” worship series. Until then, sleep well, and give your teenagers (and maybe yourself) a break. If you call St. James your church home, you have permission from your pastor to get enough sleep at night and to enjoy the occasional Sabbath siesta. Maybe that’s why God gave us NASCAR on Sunday afternoons—to lull us to sleep!

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