Sarah Anne Hayes

the ministry of sleep deprivation

CommunitySarah Anne HayesComment

I'm not particularly good at sleeping.

It's somewhat of a running joke amongst our friend group, to be honest. Once I get to bed, I can easily sleep past noon, but the process of actually getting there is far less consistent. As a night owl, regardless of how big my afternoon slump is, my brain turns back on in the evenings and it's quite common for me to be up past midnight reading, journaling, or doing any number of other activities.

Before my roommate Holly and I moved in together, she joked that neither of us would ever get any sleep. A fellow night owl and one of my best friends, those past-midnight evenings were often filled with conversations with her, over text or Facebook or phone, sometimes in person. Some nights they were ridiculous enough to induce tears of laughter and other nights they were of a serious enough nature that if tears were present, they were also accompanied by hugs and a shoulder for those tears to fall on.

Holly's prediction has come true on many nights since we moved in together. There's been more than one occasion where one of us has walked into the kitchen to get a glass of water or into the basement to put something away and that simple action has turned into a question which turns into a conversation which often turns into hours sitting on the couch or at the table, processing the many parts of life both wonderful and hard. 

And more often than not, we look up at the clock and know it will be a struggle when our alarms go off in the morning.

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Life is full of seasons. Everyone knows this. We use the metaphors of springs and summers and autumns and winters to talk about life when things are wonderful and new and good things are growing or when it feels like everything is crumbling to dust around us.

The events of our lives ebb and flow and the things we see and learn and experience mimic the changes in the seasons. This is something I believe the Lord does intentionally — to remind us that everything on this earth is temporary, the happy and the sad. It helps us savor the good and wonderful moments in our lives, knowing they won't be around forever. And it gives us hope when things are painful and there seems to be no end in sight, for winter will always turn into spring.

I've been in what you might call an extended season of singleness for, well, most of my life.

I'm officially into the latter half of my third decade of life, and, of those 27 years, I've spent a grand total of about nine months attached to another person in some sort of romantic fashion.

Like most things in life, my contentment with my singleness, or lack thereof, has ebbed and flowed, and I would be lying to you if I didn't say I would be quite pleased to be engaged and married in the near future. But the more prominent feeling I've had toward my singleness as of late is contentment — a peace and genuine trust that the Lord knows exactly what He's doing in this season of my life, just as He's known in every season that's come before, and whether He brings my spouse into my life two weeks or five years from now, this season is and will continue to be good. 

Certainly, there are days when I still struggle with my singleness, especially since I never thought I'd be single for this long, but most of the time these days? Well, I actually kind of love it.

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On a recent Monday night, I got together with my mentor. We ate frozen yogurt and talked about all sorts of things happening in her life and mine, one of which is my singleness. I told her that, while I would love to be married soon, I really love the season I currently find myself in because it gives me opportunities for ministry I simply wouldn't have if I went home to my husband every night.

Perhaps one of the most common things single people in the Church are told is their singleness is an opportunity to serve in ways they would be otherwise unable to once married or married with children. It's easy to scoff at that suggestion and think that's easy for someone who's married to say, because they don't have to wrestle with the heartache and pain that often comes along with this supposedly blessed season of singleness and service.

But more and more lately, I'm realizing just how true that statement is.

When my roommates and I moved into our new house a few months back, we talked about what we wanted the house to be and we all agreed we wanted it to be a place of ministry to our community. We wanted our home to be one that was open and welcoming to all the members of our community and friend group, where movie nights and game nights and dinners and laughter and joy and sorrow could all happen. We want to fill the home with memories overflowing with life and love and laughter for however long we live together in it.

There are nights when I don't get enough sleep for silly reasons like getting caught up in a Netflix binge session or (far more often) getting sucked into an excellent book I just have to finish that night. And on some pragmatic level, I know I really should get more sleep than I do, but sometimes it's worth it to only get four or five hours of sleep if it means being a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, the voice of wisdom, or all of the above.

Yes, there are nights I've stayed up until 2:00 a.m. finishing a book and I've sorely regretted it the next morning, but in recent months, the most common reason I've stayed up particularly late is when someone I care about has needed me or I've needed them.

There have been nights sitting around the table with my roommates where I've had to verbally process the joyful and exciting and stressful and sometimes frightening things happening in my life, where I've sobbed and needed to receive comfort and encouragement and words of wisdom and love from the people in my life who know and love me best.

There have been other nights where I've been on the giving end of that equation. Where I've listened to my roommates and friends process the stressful and frightening and joyful and exciting things happening in their own lives, where I've literally been a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear or the voice of encouragement and wisdom.

And on one of those late nights where I sat on the couch with my roommate well past midnight with tears running down both of our faces, I realized something — there is a ministry of sleep deprivation.

I will not always be in a season where I can stay up until 2:00 a.m. with my friends and roommates to help them process life and be the only one to reap the consequences of a stupid early alarm clock. One day I will hopefully have a husband and children and when I am in that season, it will be much harder to drop everything and run to my friend's side when she needs me. We may have to settle for tears shed or joy bursting over the phone and virtual hugs instead of real ones when little ones are sleeping or my husband needs me by his side.

But in this season right now, where I've been blessed (because I am truly learning it is a blessing) with singleness? I can drop everything and rush to my friend's side with ice cream or hugs or words of wisdom or a listening ear or all of the above. I have the freedom to be present in the lives of those I love in ways that just aren't possible when you have a spouse and children and I am so grateful.

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Friend, if you're sitting here today reading this and feeling like singleness is more of a curse than a blessing, that it's a gift you wish had an easier return policy, I encourage you to look around. Ask the Lord to open your eyes to the ways He's uniquely gifted you to minister in this season not in spite of your singleness but rather because of it. Notice those pockets of time and those talents and passions you have that can be used to build up the Kingdom in ways that will be more limited when you have the wonderful but constraining commitments of marriage and family.

1 Corinthians 7 states plainly that a married person is a divided person. Once joined to another human being in covenantal marriage, your time is not your own. And though your time is never truly your own, for it is always the Lord's first and foremost, there is more freedom in your time as a single person than there is as a married person. So take advantage of it.

Invite your friends over for impromptu dinners and game nights. Take that spontaneous trip to the beach with some of your favorite people. Answer the phone when your friend calls late at night and open your door or show up at theirs with ice cream in hand and hugs at the ready. Go to the midnight premiere of the movie and spend your Saturday wandering through the farmer's market and cooking up food with those you love. Have dance parties and go to amusement parks and play ridiculous games. Lose a little (or a lot of) sleep and make as many memories as you possibly can. Invest every square inch of that great love you can give to a spouse and family one day into the community of people the Lord has gifted you with in this season.

I still deeply desire to be a wife and mother some day soon, and if my husband walked through the doors of my church on Sunday, I certainly wouldn't complain. But this season the Lord has me in right now, this season filled with love and laughter and joy and tears and heartache and far less sleep than is probably healthy? It is my most favorite season yet.