The Fatherhood Chronicles CXVIII

Struggling to Rest

I think most parents know the difficult challenge of the naptime struggle. The little ones are still learning how to release all the energy they’ve got pent up inside them. They need, even unconsciously yearn, for sleep, but they cannot enter into the rest that is waiting for them.

Parental skills are sorely tested here. There’s the rational argument approach: “Sweetie, you’re so cranky–see, you just yawned!–you need to get your rest so you’ll feel better.” There’s the barter approach: “If you take a nap, you can watch your favorite video when you get up.” There’s the assertion of authority: “You will take a nap.” Occasionally, one tries the sequential approach: “Okay. Heads on pillows. Legs out flat. Arms at your sides. No noises coming out of your mouths. Lie still.”

But sometimes the only thing that can be done is to allow a controlled throwing of a fit. Of course, they can’t go all out, since that’s not appropriate and is self-defeating. But to allow a few minutes of tears and frowny-faces often does the trick. It’s as though that last final expenditure of emotional energy is all that is needed to finally throw on the “night-night” switch. It’s my experience that sleep follows almost instantly.

There is, I think, wisdom to be gleaned here. For unless we have reached sanctity, some of us are still very toddler-like in our walk of faith. God will reason with us–“Come, let us reason together, saith the Lord.” God will barter with us–witness Abraham interceding for Lot’s life among the people of the doomed cities. God certainly will express his authority–simply read the last few chapters of Job. And he will give us sequential tasking–just as he did Elijah: anoint Hazael king of Syria, anoint Jehu king of Israel, and anoint Elisha your successor.

But sometimes we will not allow ourselves into his rest without a great burst of energy as we finally relinquish our will, our trust to him. The Psalms of lament are a witness to us. And there is the limping figure limned against the rising sun, having just wrestled with the Angel of the Lord. It is not for me to paint this as an inferior, or less mature form of submission. It may well be. But it may also well be necessary for us. The great thlipsis, or pressing, of the soul evokes a struggle in us, and God may ordain such struggles so that we may finally come into his rest, albeit limping, but shining in his glory, too.