Don’t Go Back to Sleep

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“I want to talk about my real struggle to stay awake, how hard it is for me to live life with my eyes and heart wide open, fully engaged instead of being half dead.” 

I used to always say “ignorance is bliss.” I don’t believe it’s true, but I do sometimes wish my eyes hadn’t ever been opened to the truth and reality of messy, raw, vulnerable living. Even though I know it’s not true, life felt so much easier when I was in denial. I could live in my own little world, unaware of my own pain or others’ around me. Honestly, I was getting by pretty good in the Christian world when I was faking it best. It’s ironic that the place that’s supposed to be the most honest and real—the church—is often the best place to hide, to stay asleep.

Sometimes I am still jealous when I intersect with other people who seem like they don’t have any problems; I leave these moments conflicted, wondering why I can’t be satisfied with surface conversations anymore. The truth is that since I started this downward journey into the muck and mire of real life—mine and others—I no longer have time for pretense.

Keeping it real

I don’t want to talk about color swatches, soccer scores, the next great sermon someone watched on TV, or the newest book on what prayer I need to pray to feel better.

I want to talk about my real struggle to stay awake, how hard it is for me to live life with my eyes and heart wide open, fully engaged instead of being half dead. I want to talk about my dreams and passions and hear the dreams and passions of others. I want to talk about advocating for the poor and caring for the sick. I want to talk about restoring dignity to men and women who have had it stripped. I want to talk about what it means to bring the kingdom of God to earth, here, now.

I want to talk about real life.

I often come back to Jesus’ words in John 10–that he came to offer me—us—life, real life, for the short time we are here on this earth. And to live means I have to keep my eyes open, aware and present, tuned in not only to God and others but also to my own heart.

A friend shared this Rumi poem with me several years ago and I often reflect on it. He had given it to a friend who needed to begin living her life after years of being closed off, afraid and stuck. He gave her the poem along with a bottle of No-Doze, the medication that keeps people from falling asleep. Let these words soak in:

For years copying other people, I tried to know myself

from within I couldn’t decide what to do.

Unable to see, I heard my name called

and then I walked outside

the breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you

Don’t go back to sleep.

you must ask for what you really want

Don’t go back to sleep.

people are going back and forth across the doorsill

where the two worlds touch.

the door is round and open.

Don’t go back to sleep.

I can’t go back to sleep. We can’t go back to sleep.

Once our eyes and hearts are open, we must stay awake.

For so many of us, sleep is easier—not rocking the boat, keeping everyone happy, not needing anything, killing off desire, ignoring our dreams and passions, pretending it’s all better than it really is, working so much we don’t have to feel.

Sleep has been familiar for many of us for a long time.

But I feel certain that God is calling us to wake up.

I love this passage in Isaiah 52:1-2, translated beautifully in The Message (The heading is appropriate, too—God is Leading You Out of Here):

Wake up, wake up! Pull on your boots, Zion!

Dress up in your Sunday best, Jerusalem, holy city! Those who want no part of God have been culled out. They won’t be coming along.

Brush off the dust and get to your feet, captive Jerusalem!

Throw off your chains, captive daughter of Zion!

Yes, my friends, it’s time to wake up, brush off the dust, get to our feet and live.

I don’t want any more years to go by where I waste them sleeping because I was afraid—afraid of disapproval, afraid of people leaving me, afraid of getting hurt again, afraid of being misunderstood.

Being awake is harder. Sleep protects us from feeling pain, but it also protects us from feeling life. I was thinking recently of the several times Jesus said to the disciples in the gospels, Why are you asleep? Are you asleep again?

I wonder if he’s asking us the same question.

This reminder isn’t just for you, it’s for me, too.

We can’t go back to sleep.

________________________

My dear SheLoves friends, I’d love to hear:

  • When do you most struggle to stay awake and fully engaged with life?
  • When have you felt God calling you to rise and wake up?

________________________

Image credit: Flickr.com: arielophelia

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Kathy Escobar
Kathy Escobar co-pastors The Refuge, an eclectic faith community in North Denver dedicated to those on the margins of life and faith. She blogs regularly about life and faith at kathyescobar.com and is the author of Down We Go--Living out the Wild Ways of Jesus in Action. She lives in Arvada, Colorado with her husband, Jose, and five kids. Her most recent book Faith Shift can be found on Amazon.com
Kathy Escobar

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  • Lori B

    Kathy this really resonants for me, especially after wild goose and Richard Rohr. It is so hard to stay awake and feel life. So hard, but utterly crucial to struggle with it. Seems a big part of my work these months and days.

    • Hi Lori! I’d love to hear how Richard Rohr impacted you at Wild Goose and specifically on the topic of being awake. I would have loved to see him there, but we just couldn’t do it as a family … I am reading his book “Simplicity” right now. Loved “Falling Upward,” etc. I’d be very interested to hear some more of your thoughts.

    • thanks dear lori. i am sad i missed it but i was in new orleans for a wedding. that richard rohr. brilliant and so deep and challenging to my heart. love.

  • This post is timely for me. This Rumi passage is a favorite of mine, and it is good to be reminded of it as I’ve been struggling with insomnia for the last few weeks. I am so, so tired, and yet the challenge is to not use sleep as a drug that numbs me, but as a restorative time that allows me to be more fully awake to my life. Thanks for this beautiful reminder.

    • thanks for sharing, yeah, that’s one of my all-time favorite rumi’s. i do hope you are able to get some of that real sleep–the good kind–at some point soon 🙂

  • Enuma Okoro

    I get the sense that a lot of women ARE waking up Kathy. And we need to keep hearing of it so thank you for sharing. Lovely. Bold.

    • I agree, Enuma … I sense a large groundswell. It’s time …

    • yeah, i agree with both you & idelette. it’s time…

  • Kate

    I find it the hardest to stay away when I see AND engage with the hurting world around me. I’m a working/living in Kenya and most days are a struggle. So much hurt. So much injustice. A false church everywhere, harming so many. I often ask Jesus how he feels about this mess. All I hear/feel is his sorrow. And feeling that sorrow is overwhelming and difficult. Being asleep, not engaging, feels easier some days than walking around feeling like your heart, His heart, is bleeding all over your clothes for all to see. Though sleep is easier, it only bring death to my soul. So bleeding I choose to stay as long as it means I’m alive, really alive. Thanks for writing this. It’s encouraging to read and know others feel like I do.

    • O, Kate … This is beautifully said: “Being asleep, not engaging, feels easier some days than walking around feeling like your heart, His heart, is bleeding all over your clothes for all to see.” So true … I pray deep Grace for you today and on your journey.

    • thanks, kate. oh it has to be so hard, what you see every day and how it hurts so deeply, with absolutely no easy fixes or solutions. being awake is so much more painful, the blood a sign of life. a theology from below is definitely a mind and heart bender/wrencher. much peace, hope, and strength to you from afar. thanks for taking time to share.

  • Pat68

    Excellent!

  • So true and exactly what I need to hear. I feel myself struggling deeply with my purpose right now, what I am supposed to do? I kind of feel like I’m swimming in murky water – or maybe floating in a dream world.
    Oh God, please wake me up!
    Startle me, shake me, rattle me!Then, hold my hand on this journey, But keep me wide enough awake to cling To you as if my life depended on it. And strengthen my other hand to reach out.To reach as I am an extension of your hand. Keep my eyes wide open to see others – don’t let me miss them. Give me life abundantly and keep me awake to experience it And to share it!
    http://www.predatory-lies.com

    • thanks, abby. i really like that imagery of the two hands–one to cling and the other to reach out. thanks for sharing!

  • Andrea

    most challenging to me is the distraction of things that ultimately don’t matter. we are lured by the superficial and can miss the Kairos opportunities that God brings our way.

    • thanks andrea, yes, distractions almost everywhere i look….

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  • kellyasummers

    I definitely needed to read this. I feel like I’ve been in the process in the last year of waking up from a very long sleep. I’m finally admitting that I have dreams and that it may be scary to admit what they are (they seem so impossible and far away) but being afraid of what’s next in a greater life is better than being bored or numb. Thanks for sharing!

    • thanks kelly, yes, dreaming is so scary! and soooo good. being brave to say some of these out loud is a big step. every time i am with women (and men, too) and the subject of dreaming comes up, everyone shares how cut off we are from them, how terrifying and stupid it sometimes feels to say them out loud, but how we long for so much more….thanks for sharing.

  • utshaT

    thank you so much for sharing this. as i am here in a Seminary life i see many people (young women) who are deep in sleep and not yet ready to wake up. sometimes i want to go and shake them so that they will know what they are missing by staying asleep. they have shut themselves to God and opened themselves to the world.
    i wish and pray that these women and daughters of God awake and be all that God has made them to be.
    thank you.

    • thanks for sharing. much peace and courage to you as you call others to wake up…

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