My husband and I are always amazed when we see a child asleep in an odd place – stretched out across a pew at Mass, in a store, or at a park. While neither or our daughters are terrible sleepers, they both have struggled with falling asleep at one point or another. My youngest is especially like this, having had colic and reflux as a newborn. She still needs considerable help winding down before being put to bed, and naps are a real struggle for her.
That being said, there are times that one of them falls asleep in my arms, or in my husband’s arms. Have you ever held a sleeping baby or small child? It is one of the most peaceful experiences in the world. You can feel the gentle rise and fall of a little chest against yours, can feel the little hands holding on to you.
I love when my daughters are awake. They are both funny, affectionate, creative little people. It is a privilege to be their mother, and to get to see the girls they are becoming. But as much as I love it when they are awake, there are times that I love them even more when they are asleep. I especially love to see my preschooler sleeping. Her face settles into the same pouty sleep expression she had as a baby. My heart swells with love for her, every time.
St. Therese of Lisieux was a teenager when she became a Carmelite and, like most teenagers, she really struggled with waking up early. She would wake up, go to the chapel for adoration – and fall asleep. She consoled herself, though, by recalling that parents love their children even more when they sleep. She reasoned that if that was the case, then surely her heavenly Father would love her just as much when she accidentally dozed off during prayer.
I was thinking of both of these examples recently, when I was in Eucharistic adoration. I feel as if my prayer life has been very dry lately. Often, when I settle in to pray, I find myself distracted. I easily become overwhelmed by anxiety, my brain racing with everything that I’m worrying about. Mostly, though, I feel as if I don’t know what to pray about. My prayer life now – as a young wife and mother – is drastically different than it was when I was a college student. My concerns are mainly practical, and far more serious. I worry about my daughters, my husband, my family of origin and in-laws, friends (especially those who are expecting or who are experiencing infertility), and the state of the world my children are growing up in. It is hard to settle down, when it comes time to pray.
So, when I was in adoration the other day, it suddenly occurred to me – what if God loves me just as much, if not more, when I am “asleep”? Of course, I’m not implying that you must go to adoration or Mass with the intention of drifting off. I am implying that there is a value to just resting in God. There is great value in not trying to always do everything in your relationship with God, but rather to know when to rest silently in his loving presence.
That realization has given me so much consolation. God is far greater than I, and far more powerful than I am, and that is a very good thing. He is in control, and I can just rest in that. That mindful resting in God is a perfect prayer in itself.