Sleep

10/27/2009

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I have had some great times of sleeping in my life. I have slept in many places, in many conditions, and with varying grades of fatigue, but never have I had such experiences sleeping as I have here in Haiti. Sleep is difficult here. There is a lot that burdens me and I awake often in the middle of the night (this is Jay. If you know me, you know I enjoy some good sleep). Before I go on, let me list some of my more notable experiences with sleeping.  

  1. Sleeping in an un-air-conditioned, 15 yr old RV, on one pull out couch with two other friends last summer. Duration: 6 weeks. Sleep Quality = 7 (out of an arbitrary ten). Only Issues: heat, sweat puddles, bed mates not showering for 2 weeks, smell of the couch's 14 previous years. 
  2. Sleeping in a North Carolina shack in February in the snow. Duration: 5 days. Sleep quality = 3 Only issues: Mice, golf-cart sized hole in the wall, 8 inches of snow, cheap sleeping bag
  3. Sleeping in Stephen’s bed in college. Duration: 3 months. Sleep Quality = 10. Only issues: None whatsoever. The story: After much accumulation of mess in my bedroom, my bed was rendered inaccessible. I then (nobly) convinced my roommate, Stephen English, that he should attempt a bed fast for 3 months. He agreed. So I slept on his pillow-top mattress while he slept on the floor for 3 months. He grew more spiritual. I slept great. Win-Win.
  4. Sleeping in the Guest House at Angola Prison. Duration: 1 night. Sleep Quality = 9. Only Issues: I felt safe, but felt unsettled by my heart being unsettled by the idea of being escorted to the house by a convicted murderer, Big Lou, whom Jesus had redeemed and we had recently become good friends with.

I have slept in a lot of places, from the ground of a school bus to bat-infested hostels in Guatemala, and yet sleeping in Haiti is still profoundly different than anywhere else I have slept. Part of that difference could be our mattress that seems to be trying to conform to a Sine Wave Pattern across my back. And my side of the bed is the top of the Wave. So I wake up with back pain, and want to complain about it to someone, and then I walk around the village and see that many people are sleeping on dirt floors, or maybe concrete floors, every single night. Some people do have mattresses, which are considered a luxury, and I wake up thinking my mattress needs to be made of cloud or something. I am thus constantly reminded of my entitled spirit, and constantly running back to Jesus for him to hold me, love me, make me and change me. But the mattress is only one aspect of my slumber disruption. 

And of course the mosquitoes seem quite interested in me as well, but the biggest part of it I think is life all around. We go walking through the village and it is impossible to ignore the poverty we see. There are burdens here that cannot be easily forgotten. Yesterday I was asked by one of our friends here if I slept well last night. I answered honestly that I hadn’t slept well. She asked if it was because of the heat (which is a very valid reason here too), but I told her it was because I had a lot on my mind. She told me in Creole simply that “You need to think less if you want to sleep.” It seemed to be advice that came from experience, and it kind of explains part of the culture here. Basically, I felt she was saying that in the poverty here, if someone wants to survive and stay sane, they need to not think about the reality of life here. Life is that hard. If you want to sleep at night, you better not think about tomorrow.

The Haitians have learned that out of necessity, but it is true of life everywhere. Jesus said “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” As he had just told his followers, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:26,27,34)

I want to learn to cast all my burdens to Jesus. The burdens are too great for me to carry, but in my arrogance, I sometimes see myself able enough to handle them. Life is too hard to carry them. And therefore I am ever more grateful that Jesus came to be my savior.
 
 
We have now been in Haiti for less than 3 days. And a few things are already apparent: 1. God is here. 2. The country is beautiful. 3. The people are beautiful -- their smiles and their eyes are powerfully warm. 4. Haiti is very hot. AND 5. my heart has complete peace about living here. 

As we stood atop our house today over looking the village, we could see vibrant colors of plant life in every direction. From above the area is bright and fertile. Yet there is a giant difference when comparing this view to the view from our walk yesterday. We walked through the hills and paths and saw utter poverty. The people are hungry, the animals are hungry, and the ground is barren in many places. Trash is strewn everywhere as Haitians live there lives in this broken world. 

And yet there is joy here. God has not abandoned his people. And he is still in the business of redeeming people and the world. There is an obvious peace that is present in the people's hearts that he is redeeming. It does not make a lot of sense when contrasted with the surroundings, but we are seeing God's promise for peace lived out by my Haitian brothers and sisters. 

He promises "...the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" -- Philippians 4:7  


As we go to sleep tonight (earlier than I have gone to bed in a long time) I am grateful that God gives us peace. It doesn't necessarily fit with the discomfort, pain and poverty here, but God has given our hearts rest and peace today, and shown us his peace through the lives of our Haitian friends. And for that I am truly grateful.