No Guarantees: Sleep and Toddlers


My darling girls do not always believe in sleep.

Weirdly, I like reading on the spiritual disciplines, and recently, a reoccurring theme that I have noted is the importance of sleep. It’s essential as a base line from which to operate. Prayers, study, and meditation – not to mention worship and service – all benefit from a solid base of sleep. Noticing this now leads me to think that maybe a lack of something might make it stand out more…

The impracticality of this idea of sleep as foundation for parents of small children (maybe for large children as well) seems pretty obvious.

Last night, we were pretty down on sleep already this week and our littlest one needed us. Well mostly needed my wife – but I’m a firm believer in solidarity – or I just have a hard time sleeping anyhow.

It strikes me that the most important thing about spiritual disciplines is that they deepen your connection, knowledge, and love of God. Simultaneously, this should increase your love for neighbor and self. Jesus says these are the two greatest commandments, and if our spiritual disciplines do not increase or maintain this part of our hearts and mind, they are an utter wash.

While sleep is an important foundation for spiritual disciplines and is perhaps a spiritual discipline in it’s own right, the interruption of sleep for the sake of another is a spiritual discipline as well. Or rather it is the very font from which spiritual disciplines acquire their status as means of grace.

C.S. Lewis used his fictional demons Screwtape and Wormwood to tease out the idea that prayer and piety can be destroyers of faith. When they cease to be connected to our love of real people and the living God, it is not true prayer or true piety. It’s dangerous and destructive ego stroking and false love setting in.

I think for this very reason that both sleep and vigils are considered spiritual disciplines – to remind us that absence and presence of an aspect of life are both part of loving God and loving neighbor.

It’s amazing what little girls who wont sleep can teach you.


About Sean Smith

Husband, Father, Pastor, Swimmer, Writer, Reader, and attempted Adventurer!
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