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Divine Rest

Jul 31, 2023

This post is by Joanne Wu. 

One thing I remember most vividly from my seminary days is the term “Naptio Divina”.  This term, coined by three pastors from the church where I interned, was a joking nickname for  Lectio Divina - a monastic spiritual practice of meditating on Scripture.  

At the time, I felt they were being a little irreverent and judged them for thinking it was okay to fall asleep while meditating on Scripture.  But now that I’m closer to the age they were when they used the term “naptio divina”, I realize that being able to fully rest while in full awareness of God’s presence in the complexities of this world is a gift.  Being able to nap surrendered to God’s sovereignty is a discipline I am currently seeking in my God time. 

Recently, my default answer to “How are you?” has been “I’m okay, just very very tired.”  I don’t know why I say “I’m okay,” but I do know why I say I’m tired.  As a stay at home mom to five kids eight and under, my days are filled with endless cycles of washing dishes, doing laundry, tuning out toys and books scattered on the floor, following and being followed by a 16-month-old, discerning when to intervene when siblings fight, helping with homework, preparing food, etc. But also in each day is down time when I nurse my youngest, when I take my three-year-old to nap, and when I take all the kids to sleep at night.  In those pockets of 15-30 minutes of waiting for them to sleep, I usually turn to my phone and mindlessly read and scroll through social media or news feeds.  Recently, I’ve been convicted with the following thought, if I claim to be so tired, then why don’t I rest when I have the down time to do so?  Instead of closing my eyes and letting myself be still and know God, why do I choose to stimulate my already frazzled mind with more input - much of which is not life-giving?

And so, “naptio divina.”  The definition I give to naptio divina is this - the practice of closing my eyes, repeating a scripture passage in my head, and breathing slowly with the goal to rest fully in God’s truth.  Practically speaking, this is how it looks when I apply naptio divina during my afternoon naps with my two youngest kids.  I tell my three-year-old to lie down next to me, grab my nursing pillow and plop my 16-month-old on it.  Before I nurse, I open the Bible app on my phone and quickly skim Psalm 4, slowing down at verse 8.  While I nurse my toddler, I close my eyes and recite the words from verse 8, “In peace, I will both lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.”  As I repeat these words slowly in my mind, I fight off feelings of annoyance because my three-year-old is jumping on the bed.  I open my eyes and sternly tell him to lie down again, and then I close my eyes and repeat part of v. 8, “In peace, I will both lie down and sleep…”  After switching sides for my nursing toddler, I start telling God how much I’m not at peace.  I begin to list many reasons why -  the unknown future, the state of our planet, the vacillating political climate, my messy untidy house, my kids who won’t nap when I want them to, just to name a few.  If my toddler is done nursing, I place her in her crib and then lie down next to my three-year-old.  Lying down, I repeat the verse again, “In peace, I will both lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.”

As I repeat this verse slowly in my mind, and try to slow down my breathing to relax my tense body, I picture the psalmist David writing these words in the midst of his own turmoil.  Despite all the crazy, he still chose to remember and hold fast to God.  Remembering this, I begin to pray with this verse in mind.  I ask God to help me to embrace and receive His divine peace.  I pray that as I relax into His peace, I can sleep and remember that even though it doesn’t always feel like it, God is in control.  I pray that I will be one who can sleep in all circumstances, knowing that God is God and I am not.  I pray that truly, “In peace, I [can] both lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.” 

Joanne is a SoCal native who currently lives in Taiwan with her husband of twelve years, raising their five beautiful children and their faithful Golden Retriever.  She appreciates free time to take walks, sleep, and slowly eat her food.  She writes about her struggles to embrace her identity in Christ as enough and how she finds pockets of grace in the midst of motherhood.  You can find her on Instagram @mom.of.wu . 

Photo by Lilian Dibbern on Unsplash


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