The Grace of a Nap

(My nephew, napping at Grandma's.)

You’re going to laugh at me. Or, and my stomach twinges to think it, I may be a cause for jealousy. Because one of my problems living life in a hermitage... is deciding how often I should nap.

This is a problem because I find I want to nap quite a lot. In part, this is probably because I’m tired from seven years of ministry. Also, the hermitage is in the woods and faces north, so not much sunshine makes it through the windows. And without a lot of pressing tasks to keep my adrenalin going, my body seems to say, “Huh, not much going on – how about a nap?”

(Meditating... or dozing a bit?)

But do I want to sleep through my time at the monastery? How can I nap when I could be walking the prairie trails, reading books, practicing meditation, doing yoga, or writing letters? I don’t want to waste my Lilly grant, sleeping through these four weeks!

I go back and forth. Sometimes I give in and nap, and sometimes I get myself outside, or make more coffee, or drive into town, or sit at my writing desk.

But I’ve noticed that when I do nap, I feel very, very loved by God. I feel abundant grace. Taking a nap is grace embodied! Yes, it is good to take walks, read, and all the rest. God has given us the gift of time to use creatively and well, but the gift of time is also to just enjoy.

God rested from all the work that She had done in Creation. (Genesis 2:3a / female pronoun)

(God, napping on the seventh day, while reading...Leviticus?)

In Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert admires the Italian ideal of il bel far niente, or “the beauty of doing nothing.” Dorothy Bass, in her book, Receiving the Day, writes about keeping a day of rest in the week as “practicing, for a day, the freedom that God intends for all people.” The freedom of doing nothing, or playing, napping, praying, and loving - things that might not seem, well, "productive."

(Jesus, napping at a rather inopportune time, or so his disciples thought.)

Sure, I don’t want to nap my life away. But there's a lesson about grace to "just lie down for a while." With every bone in the body, we can let go and experience the feeling that God loves us.


…what does the Lord your God ask of you? To feel awe and respect for the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments… for your own well-being.
(Deut. 10:12-13, NIV/NRSV, with “fear” translated as “awe and respect” / male pronoun)

God does not ask for our usefulness, profitability, or work, exactly. God does not ask us to prove ourselves worthy. God asks us to love and to live just lives. God asks us to have right and loving relationships with each other (see also: The Ten Commandments). And it seems to me we can do this more easily if we are rested, not stressed out, and feeling loved, ourselves.

(My dog, Odo, practicing this teaching.)

Also, God asks for a relationship with us.

I do not call you servants any longer… I have called you friends. (Jesus, John 15:15)

Friends! God, in Christ, wants to be our friend. Wants to hang out with us, talk to us, to love and be loved by us.

A beginners' way to hang out with God, it seems to me, is to nap.

Perhaps naps should be included in the list of spiritual disciplines. Perhaps as a subcategory under “Sabbath-keeping.” A nap is a mini-sabbath. It could be just twenty minutes (which studies show is one sleep cycle). If you’re sleep-deprived, as many of us are, your body may cry out for more. (If you’re feeling love- or grace-deprived, too.)

We don’t earn God’s love with the number of tasks we achieve. We don't make ourselves better people by spending every minute of our time profitably.

Sometimes, to remember what life is and what love is, I’m discovering on my sabbatical, it’s important to stop, just be with God, and maybe take a little nap.