DAY (Our Father, Word by Word)

May 30, 2011 | Uncategorized | 16 comments

Our Father Who Art in Heaven, Hallowed Be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done,
On Earth As it Is in Heaven. Give Us This Day…
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When you think about it, the whole concept of sleep is kind of weird. If I were God, I would never have come up with that one. All of our communication with God and each other, all the salvation drama of each person’s life, plays out only in his conscious hours. So what’s the point of sleep? From the divine perspective, why bother adding that feature to the human person? Yeah, there’s the evolutionary argument that sleep kept our cave man ancestors from injuring themselves by wandering around at night, and that may have been part of God’s thinking, but God didn’t have to create night. He could have set up our planet and the solar system in some way that there weren’t periods of darkness and therefore we didn’t need cycles of rest.

In other words, God could have created a world without the “day, ” where constant consciousness would render the concept meaningless. Why didn’t he?

I think a whole series of posts could be written exploring this one word, pondering the question of why God gives us day and night, wakefulness and sleep. But the answer that seems most clear to me is simply this: It keeps us intimately close to the concept of death and resurrection.

Give us this day…

Day refers to a finite period of time, one cycle of wakefulness. At the end of this period I have to stop what I’m doing and let myself fall into unconsciousness. It marks the end of my ability to control the world around me, the death of whatever plans I was in the middle of enacting. And I have no choice: It doesn’t matter if I want to sleep or not, if I am certain that it would be best if I went ahead and stayed awake for the next couple of weeks. When the time comes, I must sleep. The day has ended.

Sometimes it’s frustrating: The need for sleep often keeps us from accomplishing as much as we’d like to accomplish. It’s a constant reminder of our human limits. Like the mini-death that it is, it can be an annoying interruption to our plans. And yet this mini-death is the only way for us to experience, at a visceral level, the power of a mini-resurrection.

The end of the day is the only time we ever really hit the “reset” button in life. There are other, artificial milestones like the end of a month or the beginning of a new year, but that important sense of one block of time ending and another beginning is never more powerful than when we wake from unconsciousness and begin a new day. We open our eyes to a resurrection, a new chance, a fresh start. What better way to set the stage for us to understand the work that God’s Son came here to do?

In a 1908 book called The Secret of a Happy Life, Fr. Francis Xavier Lasance wrote:

One secret of a sweet and happy Christian life is learning to live by the day…Life does not come to us all at one time; it comes only a day at a time. Even tomorrow is never ours until it becomes today, and we have nothing whatever to do with it but to pass down to it a fair and good inheritance in today’s work well done, and today’s life well lived.

It is a blessed secret this, of living by the day. Any one can carry his burden, however heavy, till nightfall. Anyone can do his work, however heavy, till nightfall. Anyone can do his work, however hard, for one day. Anyone can live sweetly, patiently, lovingly, purely, until the sun goes down. And this is all life ever means to us — just one little day. “Do today’s duty; fight today’s temptations, and do not weaken or distract yourself by looking forward to things you cannot see and could not understand if you saw them.” God gives us nights to shut down upon our little days. We cannot see beyond. Short horizons make life easier and give us one of the blessed secrets of brave, true, holy living.

There is so much wisdom contained in those few sentences; it’s one of my favorite quotes of all time. And I think it’s the perfect explanation for why God gave us the day.

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Thanks to Starry Sky Ranch for the Fr. Lasance excerpt

16 Comments

  1. Gina

    Thank you for the quote — I really needed it.

  2. melissa

    I love how scripture says that He who watches over us neither slumbers nor sleeps… As you said, a reminder that we are not God, and that He is not limited by day or night or the need for sleep. =]

  3. Julia at LotsaLaundry

    I’ve always maintained that the most convincing proof that there is a god, and that He is good, is that even the worst day comes to an end.

  4. WhiteStone

    I, too, have often pondered sleep. It seems so weird that the entire human race wakes up, lives the day, then lies down to unconscious sleep. Yes, some keep a different schedule than others, but it’s almost as if there is a spell on us…we lie down to sleep, almost unwillingly.

  5. Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith

    What wonderful advice. My sister recently send me Father Lasance Prayer Book. It was my Mother, and she used it every day.

  6. LaNeshe

    Really interesting questions you bring up here.

  7. jeni

    I’ve been reflecting on this lately so wow, perfect timing — and so well explained. I’m sharing this on FB 🙂

  8. Faun

    Beautifully captured wisdom…thank you for sharing!

  9. Susan

    Great post. I’ve been thinking of this lately, how needing to sleep is so inconvenient. There is always so much I want to do after work, but then bedtime comes (and I’m one of those rare morning people so bedtime is 9:00) and I need to leave things unfinished. But if I ignore that need I’ll pay for it the next day.

    I love the quote about only needing to carry your burden until nightfall. I’ll have to remind myself of that more often!

  10. Marsha

    I too have pondered why God made us to need sleep. But I have always loved sleep for the reasons that you stated. Especially since the death of my 29 year old son. Many a day since his death I have said “I’m done I’m going to bed. I need to escape the pain/sadness in my heart.” It helps to carry the burden one day at a time. I have been blessed that sleep comes easy to me. I know of others that their minds will not shut off and let them sleep.

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      I am so sorry for the loss of your son, Marsha. You will be in my prayers!

  11. Aaron Lee

    What a wonderful post! Thanks Jennifer for this especially I ‘heart’ the wisdom quotation from Fr. Francis Xavier. Allow me to post it in my upcoming post?

  12. nancy

    I love your insights in this post, and that quote is beautiful. It reminds me of the scripture in Matthew 6:34 “sufficient to the day are the troubles thereof”

  13. kat

    The fact that a new day is just around the corner provides a lot of hope. It reminds me of the scriptures about how God makes all things new and also the one about how there may be pain in the night but joy comes in the morning.

  14. 'Becca

    I agree completely with the resurrection analogy, yet I’m startled by your assumption that sleep is just “off” time that accomplishes nothing. I mean, I do feel that way sometimes, like I’m just wasting time by sleeping, but that’s when I’m wrapped up in pride about all the great stuff I’m going to do and forgetting the truth about sleep.

    I don’t have references handy (it’s been a while since I did a lot of reading on this, in college) but the human brain has hundreds of processes that run automatically during sleep. The most fascinating ones relate to the encoding and interconnection of memories. The brain also directs repairs in various parts of the body so they happen while we are still. God designed sleep to serve vital functions for us. The brain is not like a computer that’s shut down and powered off at night; it’s like a computer with the monitor turned off and the user gone away while virus scans and disk-repair programs and such run automatically.

    Also among our sleep-mode processes are dreams, which according to the Bible can be a way for God to reach us at a deeper level. So I disagree that “All of our communication with God and each other, all the salvation drama of each person’s life, plays out only in his conscious hours.” Dreams–perhaps especially the ones we don’t consciously remember–impact our perceptions of waking situations and can help us resolve problems or recognize the urgency of addressing a neglected problem. Dreams can wake us at the right time and tell us what to do: For example, when my son was a baby, I dreamed he was dead; I woke up and found that he wasn’t breathing; I picked him up and slapped his back; he gasped, coughed, and started breathing again. (Whew!!!)

    He could have set up our planet and the solar system in some way that there weren’t periods of darkness and therefore we didn’t need cycles of rest.
    Sure, but I think it’s the other way around! We need cycles of rest to replenish our brains and bodies, so God encouraged the proper timing and duration of rest by giving us day and night.

    I think another spiritual benefit of sleep is that it reminds us daily that we are not 100% in control of deciding what happens to us and when. We can tweak the timing a little, but God eventually is going to force us to be still.

  15. Amy

    I love this post. I find that at the end of each day, especially the ones when I’m not the most patient mom, I am praying to be better tomorrow. I am channeling my inner Scarlett O”Hara and thinking, “After all, tomorrow is another day.” I’m relishing the knowledge that I can begin again the next day. I think you’re right about God’s reasoning for this. I never thought of it that way 🙂 That quote is perfect. Thank for this.

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