When my family and I visited a museum in Ireland this past summer, we passed an exhibit of historical bedroom furnishings. The description included a quotation from poet Isaac de Benserade: “In bed we laugh, in bed we cry; And, born in bed, in bed we die. The near approach a bed may show Of human bliss to human woe.”
I thought of that quotation again this past month, when I had a terrible cold and slept a lot. Weak, I took five short naps during one of the worst days.
We say a lot about Christian discipleship, and it usually focuses on things to do, attitudes to develop, ways we fall short of Christ-like love, and so on. But a very large portion of our lives (and a large range of our emotions) revolve around the privacy and vulnerability of the bedroom.
There, we sleep for a third or a fourth of our 24 hour days. Add another hour or two hours a day (or thereabouts) getting ourselves ready for the day or ending the day. Typically, people have sex in the bedroom. When we’re sick…. we’re in bed even more. And at the beginning and ending of our lives (as de Benserade puts it) in bed is where many of us will be. My mother, in fact, was not ambulatory at the end of her life and spent most of her final years in bed if she wasn’t in her wheelchair.
When I was in school, I studied on my bed, with my books spread over the covers. That was the way I did my first committed Bible study, working on my college courses in Bible content, New Testament Greek, and other classes. I still study that way sometimes.
God, who is never absent from any portion of our lives, is our caregiver and sustainer as we lay, sick or asleep, or sexual, or reading a book. Many of us carry our problems into bed and we lay sleepless worrying about things. Psalm 6 expresses this kind of sorrow and distress:
I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping (Ps. 6:6)
God sustains us whether we are distressed or whether we are sick:
The Lord sustains them on their sickbed;
in their illness you heal all their infirmities (Ps. 41:3)
Sleep is even a divine gift:
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives sleep to his beloved (Ps. 127:2)
Psalm 63:6 is another good verse:
….when I think of you on my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night…
The noted author of spirituality books, Joyce Rupp, speaks of the moments before she drifts off to sleep and the moments between waking and rising. She considers these as wonderful prayer times when she can fall asleep mentally communicating with God in trust and peace, and then when she wakes up, God is in her first conscious thoughts and she can give her day to God. Our daily discipleship is sustained by prayers offered in our PJs to the Lord.