While you were sleeping

It’s quiet now in the garden. All that remains to be done to end the year is to tuck in a few stray narcissus bulbs, and cover the remaining beds with a cozy blanket of mulch.

Gone is the buzzing of the pollinators and the endless motion of the supple flower stems nodding with each gentle breeze. The vibrant colors are long gone. The grey and brown remnants of the garden’s bounty rattle harshly as they rustle their crisp, dead leaves against brittle stalks.

But no; the plants are not really dead. They sleep.

Jesus used that term for the death of the man who may have been His best friend on earth — Lazarus. While the disciples misunderstood our Lord to be speaking of physical sleep, he was using that term because he knew that it was not a permanent state; that he would raise Lazarus from the dead (John 11). Like the account of Lazarus, this deathly gloom of the garden is a sleep from which it will awaken.

And so it is that I bid my beloved plants goodbye, until we meet again.

What happens during sleep? Sometimes, a lot. The bulbs will put out roots, and then in January they will start pushing their shoots up out of the soil to delight us with delicate daffodils and popping crocus buds in their royal purple resplendent glory soon afterward.

Newly planted trees and shrubs slowly grow their roots as they establish themselves in winter. Other plants will simply do nothing, as they take a restorative rest.

There is a similar phenomenon when the body sleeps. The heart slows down, which is good for its long-term health. Brain waves slow down, too.

In children, growth hormones are secreted during sleep. Our bodies also secrete chemicals that are important to our immune systems, and to manage stress.

Aging cells are replaced during sleep, and muscle fibers are repaired from the stresses of the day.

The concept of rest is of great importance in the Bible, so much so that one of the Ten Commandments dealt with it. God surely wants us to take a break from work on a regular basis. Unfortunately, we live in a time and place where true rest is scarce. It’s not even a cultural “norm” in America. Long breaks during the work day are frowned upon, and many jobs require taking work home for the weekends.

God has given us an example in nature that we do need to rest. While the new covenant does not require that we follow the commandment of a Sabbath rest, the example is still valid.

One thing we do know, that while we rest, God works.

“It is vain for you to rise early, come home late, and work so hard for your food.
Yes, he can provide for those whom he loves even when they sleep” (Psalm 127:2, NET).

This passage may have more to do with our state of mind, and warning us against worry, than about work versus rest. In any case, it shows that God is taking care of us.

If that’s not a restful thought, I don’t know what is!

As Paul Harvey would say, “And now you know the ‘rest‘ of the story.”

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