Many people use Lent as a sort of detox for the soul, bringing them back to simple and essential grace, and I’ve been curious to hear the experiences of others during this season. Today’s post is by blogger and author Ed Cyzewski, whose Lenten discipline is one we all need to cultivate: rest.
I feel like Lent is that time of year when you try to change something that would otherwise remain untouched. It’s like only the thought of a sad, disappointed Jesus can keep me in line sometimes.
This year I targeted one of my greatest struggles: sleep.
It doesn’t take a lot to keep me up at night. A little anxiety, a captivating book, or a west coast game for the Philadelphia Flyers have all stolen my sleep, leaving me groggy the next day and 2-3 hours behind schedule.
Once my sleep schedule is wrecked, I have a hard time recovering. Prayer time is squeezed off the schedule. Valuable morning work hours vanish. I work after dinner trying to catch up, only to fall behind on my house work. So I stay up late to do the dishes or laundry.
I wake up the next day with the same issues: I’m whining for coffee, frustrated, and behind schedule.
I used to wake up at 5 am and write for a few hours. It was amazing and fun. Really. I got so much done, and then I’d have a lot of confidence for the rest of the day.
My mission this year was simple enough: go up to bed at 9 pm. I’d like to wake up at 5 am, but I also realized that I needed to take things one step at a time. So I have one goal: just get upstairs and start brushing my teeth at 9 pm.
We’ve just passed the mid-way point of Lent, and sleep has been a struggle. What I didn’t expect is that once I got into bed at 9 pm, I rarely fell asleep right away. Sometimes it took hours to fall asleep.
Some nights I’d struggle with anxiety attacks. Other nights I’d try to read in order to calm myself, but then I’d just get sucked into a book. Still other nights I just laid there for hours, unable to shut down my mind.
I’ve had to really rethink my day if I want to go to bed at 9 pm.
In some respects, I’m a lot more focused during the day because of my Lenten practice.
I only have so many hours. I can’t extend the day infinitely. It ends at 9 pm no matter what. That helps me tackle the dishes in the afternoon before they pile up, keep the laundry going, and bump the most important projects to the top of my list.
I’ve also learned that I need to exercise a lot more—like, a lot more. So now I’m setting aside chunks of my day for vigorous walks or gardening projects that involve lots of energy. Consequently, these walks and outdoor activities have been good for my mind and spirit.
While I still struggle to fall asleep at my 9 pm bed time during Lent, I think I’ve trimmed off some of those black holes in my day where I genuinely waste time.
When I need leisure time, I make it count.
When I need to work, I focus.
When it’s time to clean up the kitchen, I attack.
When I sit down to pray, I remove any possible distractions.
Life is one big work in progress that we’re always editing and rewriting. Sometimes deadlines help us get the most important things done. In the case of my 9 pm bedtime, I have an immensely helpful deadline that has challenged me to rethink how I spend my entire day.
I also dread every west coast trip that the Flyers take.
Are you observing Lent this year in any particular way? In the midst of endless things to do, how do you discipline yourself to take the time and rest?
Ed Cyzewski is the author of Coffeehouse Theology and Divided We Unite. He blogs at www.inamirrordimly.com and hopes the Flyers can win the Cup this year—preferably against an opponent who is not on the west coast.