(Blog audio available here.)
When I’m off on road trips, I almost always stay with family and friends. Not only does this provide us with more quality time together, but it also saves me a bit of money as well. Best of all, actually staying with people in their homes ensures a vast array of stories to tell later.
Like the time there were three people in the bed.
Or so I thought...
Before your curiosity regarding the (intentionally-provocative) title gets the better of you, I’ll go ahead and tell you what happened.
A few weeks ago, I stayed with a friend in upstate Pennsylvania. Worn out from having attended a conference all day long, I climbed up the ladder to the loft bedroom that we were sharing and turned in long before she did. Some time later, I woke to the sound of her scaling the ladder. She crawled into the other side of the bed, rolled over, and went to sleep. Having been thoroughly awakened, I was working hard to doze back off, when to my surprise only moments later, I heard someone else climbing the ladder to the loft.
To a mind well-nourished on X-files reruns, Snapped marathons, and Ann Rule's true-crime sagas, this didn’t seem to be a good sign.
Relax, I told myself. You're staying in a town that has more cows than people, and the only reason that anyone carries pepper spray here is because of the bears. So it’s definitely not a psychotic killer. I assured myself that it was probably just my friend’s mom coming up to stick her head in the loft and whisper a question about the next day’s plans.
Only... whoever climbed that ladder didn’t stop at the top to stage whisper any questions across the room. Instead, whoever it was came all the way up into the loft, tiptoed stealthily across the room, and then crawled into bed with us.
Wait, I thought, duly concerned. Are there actually three people in this bed right now?
And if so…. WHO’S THE THIRD PERSON?!
Then I woke up and it was morning.
There were only two of us in the bed.
“At some point last night, were there three of us in this bed?” I asked my friend as soon as she woke up. (The fact that she took this question in stride proves that she’s used to me.)
It didn’t take too long to puzzle out what had happened. My friend had come up, gotten into bed, and upon realizing that she was cold, climbed back down the ladder to fetch an extra blanket. Apparently, I had fallen back to sleep at some point during this process only to awaken just as she was coming back up the ladder the second time. I thought I’d been awake the entire time, when I had in fact been asleep.
That half-consciousness between wakefulness and sleep can be a scary time, especially if we can’t tell if what we’re seeing is fact or fiction.
The fact that I had been asleep kept me from correctly interpreting reality.
Unfortunately, something similar sometimes happens spiritually.
When we’re spiritually asleep, we’re incapable of telling fact from fiction—lie from truth—dream from reality. Our spiritual slumber allows us to put our own spin on what’s going on around us, leading to mistaken assumptions and false perceptions.
The fact that we’re not spiritually awake keeps us from correctly interpreting reality.
The scariest part is that sometimes (like with me and the three-people-in-the-bed scenario) we’re not even aware that we’ve fallen asleep.
This is why Paul put out a call to the Roman Christians that the time had come to awaken from their sleep:
Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. (Romans 13:11-12)
Do you get that? He’s not talking to unbelievers. He’s talking to the church, calling them to wake up.
Spiritual wakefulness—much like actual wakefulness—is a conscious decision that must be made. We all know what it is to hear the alarm clock go off in the morning and make the conscious decision either to heed it or ignore it. On good days, we let it actually wake us up. We bring our heads off the pillow, put our feet on the ground, and open our eyes. We peel off our pajamas, take a shower, brew the coffee, and start the day.
Waking up spiritually requires a similarly conscious effort.
Some of us must first be able to acknowledge that we’ve been asleep. Unfortunately, it’s possible to be lulled into such a sense of spiritual complacency that we’re unaware that we’ve dozed off. In that case, a work of the Spirit will be required to bring us to the point of realization.
Next, we must appropriate the grace of God to take the steps of waking up—of putting off clothes worn in the night (sin) and putting on the armor of light (Christlikeness):
Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires (Romans 13:13-14).
Open your eyes.
Throw off the shades of sleep.
Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and come truly alive.