As my due date approaches, I feel like I’m staring down the barrel of a gun. Whenever Emma has a few bad nights of sleep or takes a few short naps, I’m quickly reminded of how horrible sleep deprivation is – and how horribly I deal with it.
I’m panicking just a little thinking about taking care of both a newborn and a toddler, especially when Travis is traveling for work. WHEN WILL I EVER SLEEP?!?!
I want to learn how to deal with sleep deprivation in a gracious, accepting way. But that would require me to be gracious and accept it. And that’s exactly what I can’t get myself to do.
Instead, I slide quickly down into the pit of self-pity and anger. I find myself countering the misery of a too-short nap with sweets and impulse eating. I let Emma get away with stuff I normally wouldn’t because I don’t care enough to fight her on it (hello fruit snacks for breakfast). Or I snap at her for little things because I don’t have “the patience to deal with this.” I don’t spend time in the Word because I’m either too tired to concentrate or I’m attempting to not be a complete and utter zombie by using the time to sleep – and that lack of time shows in my attitude.
From there, the self-pity deepens into: I don’t have time or energy to exercise. I don’t have energy to clean my house. I resent having to make dinner (almost) every night. I feel guilty for not planning fun and creative activities with Emma. I silently mock Travis for mentioning anything about being tired – like he even has a CLUE.
Some parents seem to handle being sleep deprived rather well. They continue functioning and enjoying life. I go into self-destruct, wallow mode. I go into THE WORLD COULD BE ENDING BUT I’M SO EXHAUSTED I WOULDN’T EVEN CARE mode.
I know that to handle sleep deprivation well, I have to stop demanding to NOT be sleep deprived. I have to accept it as a fact of life with a toddler and soon, a newborn. I have to stop digging in my heels and throwing a mental tantrum over the fact that I was up every 3 hours during the night, and my toddler did not take a nap like I expected her to, and she got up after ‘resting’ with 0-to-60 energy while I can barely hold an eye open as I stumble to the pantry for some chocolate.
It is times like these that I am forced to think out the full implications of my faith in God. If I truly believe that He provides ALL the grace I need in EVERY circumstance, He’s providing sufficient grace right now. Even though it REALLY doesn’t feel like it. Because I’d prefer His grace come in the form of some shuteye.
And you know, sometimes it does. But if it doesn’t (and it often doesn’t), what am I going to do about it? What happens when God’s grace comes to us in a form OTHER than what we’re yearning for? Thinking bigger than sleep, what happens when God DOESN’T heal us of cancer? What happens when God DOESN’T provide the answer we prayed for? What happens when God doesn’t take away the dirty mess of life, the pain, the sorrow, the frustration, the challenge? Do we go looking elsewhere for the answer that we do want? Do we act like Jonah, and sit sulking under the blazing sun, convinced that we do well to be angry, angry enough to die because God has given us something OTHER than what we wanted?
I am often like Jonah. I often reject God’s grace and make myself miserable because I want what I want, period. I wish that knowing joy comes from accepting the circumstances God allows would make It easier to accept those circumstances. I wish my desire for joy in the LORD was bigger than my fleshly insistence on having my own way. I wish that I could relinquish my need for sleep as easily as I relinquish my need for a shower, or that simply drinking a cup of coffee could make it feel like I got a solid 8 hours. I wish that I truly trusted God to provide sufficient grace in whatever form in the midst of sleep deprivation.
I don’t yet. And I can’t get myself to the place of graciously accepting sleep deprivation on my own. I am asking God to do it in me. Like A.W. Tozer says, I must insist upon the work being done, but I’m not actually the one to do it. My part is to focus on God and on what Christ purchased through His death and resurrection. As I behold Him, at 2 a.m. or 5 a.m. or while bouncing a swaddled baby on an exercise ball with a toddler tornado running rampant around my house, I will be changed.