Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Sleepwalking through life

By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published May 1, 2014

Insomnia stalks many people mercilessly. No wonder it’s commonplace to see ads touting medications and herbs that supposedly will lull one to sleep.

As for me, there are evenings when I’m in the living room reading and can barely keep my eyes open, but as soon as I’m in bed and my head hits the pillow, my brain snaps into full-awake mode.May 1, 2014_murray

I begin planning vacations, tweaking columns, organizing my shopping list—and listening intently to that strange whirring noise in the living room, which, of course, turns out to be the hamster’s wheel. After an hour or so, I finally fall asleep, but I sometimes awaken at 3 a.m. to ponder life’s big mysteries.

Last night when the clock struck 3 a.m., I started reflecting on sleep in the Gospels. I remembered the story about Jesus slumbering in the back of the boat during a big storm. The waves suddenly got so huge and the wind so fearsome that the boat began filling with water.

It struck me how quickly Jesus woke up when his friends called upon him! And how swiftly he came to their rescue. I believe he will do that for us too whenever we feel that we’re drowning in troubles, but we have to ask him to help us.

I also recalled how Jesus sometimes suffered great ridicule in his attempts to heal people. When he goes to Jairus’ house, for example, relatives are grieving because the man’s beloved little girl has died. And then Jesus astonishes them—and brings on their scorn—when he insists she is not dead but asleep.

Clearly the child is biologically dead, but Jesus sees with the eyes of God, and he knows that death never has the final word. And so he calls her back to life with the stirring words, “Child, arise!”

In the fairy tale “Sleeping Beauty,” a spell is cast upon a beautiful girl who falls into a deep slumber for many years. She reminds me of Jairus’ daughter because to the outside world she seems to be gone forever until a prince comes along and gently kisses her, and she awakens again.

At 3:30 I was still awake and reflecting on the scene when Jesus went to the garden to pray with his friends—and they all fell asleep! This has always mystified me on the literal level, because what are the chances of 11 men dozing off simultaneously?

To me their inability to stay awake and pray with Jesus symbolizes how often we fail to see God in our lives. Maybe we’re sleepwalking through life, missing the fact that Jesus is right beside us. “Why are you sleeping?,” he asks his friends—and he poses the same question to us. Why are we so often unaware of his presence?

In fairy tales love conquers death. In the Gospel stories love redeems the world. And as the old hymn assures us, “Where charity and love are, God is there.”

If we keep our eyes open to the Lord’s loving presence in our lives, there may come a moment when he will say about us what he said about the little girl. This child “is not dead but sleeping.” And then he will bring us out of the darkness of death into wondrous life in the next world. And every fairy tale ending will come true, as we shall indeed live happily ever after with him.

Artwork by Jef Murray. Readers may contact the Murrays at