Don’t Go Back to Sleep


“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: arielophelia