Ivonne J. Hernandez was surprised to discover the hidden reason behind her sleep troubles.
As I was growing up, my mom would often say to me:
“Lo mejor que Dios hizo fue un día detrás del otro.” … which roughly translates to: “The best thing God did was to make one day after the next.”
I usually heard this nugget of wisdom really late at night, when some unfinished task stared me in my weary eyes -- when I had done everything in my power to finish something, yet it was not enough.
“Go to sleep, my darling; tomorrow will be another day.” Sometimes I was so tired that I listened. But often, I would go on a bit longer … try just a little bit more.
For most of my life, I have described myself as a “night owl.” Even as a young girl, I found that the hours between midnight and 2am were the most productive. I would usually rearrange my bedroom furniture then -- when the silence of the night allowed bouts of creativity to flow uninterrupted. Later in college, I would do my best studying during those hours, often pulling all-nighters with my friends. I would then sleep in the whole weekend and catch up on rest.
After I became a mom, my night-owl status, while handy for a little while (i.e., late-night feedings), started to become a hindrance in my life. I found myself caught up in a catch-22. I was too tired to be creative, yet … for some reason, I felt the need to stay up. So, without me knowing exactly when, my status changed from night owl to insomniac. I went from actively choosing to be up because inspiration was flowing to finding myself flipping through cable channels (or later social media), waiting to be overcome by sleep.
I’ve gotten better at going to bed at a reasonable time, but the other night, my husband, who was trying to fall asleep as I kept “reading” (phone browsing), asked me, “Why do you fight falling asleep?”
I was taken aback … the truth was staring me right in the eyes.
Did you ever have to wrestle a baby long enough until he/she stops fighting against sleep? I remember feeling them slowly melting into my arms, giving in … finally falling asleep. That was me!
After praying about it, I realized what was holding me back… fear of death -- but not of actually dying during the night. Going to sleep requires a kind of surrender, a loss of control. I was afraid of letting go.
Night Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours has the following prayer:
Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in His peace.
We also pray the last words Jesus spoke from the Cross before He died:
“Into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)
There is something of death each time we go to sleep … but we know that is not the end of the story.
We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. (Romans 6:4)
So yes, there is a kind of death each night, but it is not a death we should fear or avoid; it is the kind of death that brings life.
“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” (John 12:24)
“Give us this day our daily bread.” What we receive from God each day must be offered back to Him each night. Jesus, the Bread of Life, wants to come and be buried in the ground of our hearts.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
I think I can safely say, “My mom was right!” What a gift it is that God made one day after the next and that we have an opportunity to do this every day. Each day, a little at a time, as we grow in holiness, our hearts are cleansed and purified.
“Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8)
I do not know if learning to peacefully surrender my spirit into the arms of God each night is preparing me for the final surrender of my earthly life, but I do know that there is great wisdom in taking things one day at a time.
“Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” (Matthew 6:34)
So what will I do when night falls, and well-dug patterns of sinful behavior beckon me to not let go? I will come running to the arms of my Mother. I will grab my rosary beads and ask Mary to rock me to sleep while singing her song. I will tell her of my day, of every unfinished task I am afraid to let go of.
Little by little, Hail Mary after Hail Mary, I will let go of my fears and hold on to hope. It is in the safety of her Immaculate Heart where I will learn to trust and let go.
Copyright 2021 Ivonne J. Hernandez
Images (from top): Canva Pro; Pixabay (2016); Canva Pro
About the Author
Ivonne J. Hernandez is a Catholic wife, mother, writer, and speaker. She pursued a career in Computer Engineering before becoming a stay-at-home homeschooling mom to her three boys. She is a Lay Associate of the Blessed Sacrament, president of Elisheba House (non-profit Catholic media apostolate), and author of The Rosary: Eucharistic Meditations. For more information visit ElishebaHouse.com. Follow Ivonne on Facebook and Instagram.