I fall asleep on the couch a lot. Usually this happens in the evening under the glare of the laptop blaring out sound effects from episodes of Law and Order or during countless movies and documentaries watched a little too close to bed time. My wife can vouch for all of this. It’s about as predictable as gravity or the laws of thermodynamics (nerd glasses pushed up).
I fell asleep most recently during a documentary on the Dark Ages. I wasn’t particularly bored and didn’t feel that tired. It just crept up on me. I slept on the couch from right around 9:30 p.m. until 1:15 in the morning. Then, we went to bed. This is a bad habit.
As is fairly obvious from my previous entries, I’ve been reading through the Gospels this Lenten season. One of those recent readings was from the Evangelist Mark. It ended with Christ’s haunting admonition, “Stay awake.” (Mark 13:37) Another related reading was the Parable of the ten virgins who, having run out of oil, scramble to find more to light their lamps so they’ll be ready for the bridegroom. Many days I think my lamp has gone out, or is going out. My eyelids are heavy and Christ is near.
I’d like to be found ready, to prepare the lamp of my heart, soul, mind and strength, but I am a cold, empty, wickless vessel. I am more frequently on the couch asleep than in prayer. I’d rather have my ears and eyes tickled than be challenged and convicted. I’d rather indulge and give into bodily desires than discipline my body and “make it my slave” (1 Corinthians 9:27). I’d rather keep my money, time, possessions and food than pour myself out for the least of these.
I think many times I’m content to just resign myself to passive reliance on a sovereign God who will probably make me holy one day. But passivity is absent in the Gospels and in the lives of Christians from the time of Christ until now. Yes, God is sovereign and it is only by His grace that anyone can become like Him, but we must actively cooperate if we’re going to grow and change. The Apostle Paul recommended that we “take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). A local Pastor I heard speak recently said that “being ‘saved’ is all hooey unless you live for God”.
And here I am again tying everything back to the Prayer of Ephrem the Syrian: O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of…sloth.
On dreary days like this one, my ardent desire to press on has turned to a tiny panting flame. The freezing northern winds of sin, death and the devil are gathering around me, but I hear the Psalmist’s prayer: “For it is you who light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness.” (Psalms 18:28)
Now it’s time to start the day and get to work.