Sometimes, God works in big ways. Other times, He’s much more subtle.
Take, for instance, the time He asked me to go to bed earlier.
Sounds strange that God could transform someone’s life through a bedtime, right? Yet, this small request He asked me of me one lent, changed my life for the better.
About six months after our second child was born, our family was beginning to find a sense of normalcy again. There are always challenges that arise when you have a newborn, but our daughter was extremely colicky. We spent those newborn months on edge, rarely leaving the house. It was exhausting and trying, (to say the least), and we were ready for change.
As she got better, life became less chaotic and stressful, and though we started settling into a good routine, a heaviness was weighing on my heart.
The littlest things would frequently upset me: If I couldn’t keep our home in order, I felt like a failure; if my kids didn’t get “proper” attention from me, I felt like a bad mom; if someone slighted me in any way, I questioned my worth. I felt guilty taking time for myself, and constantly felt like I was coming up short.
Though I tried to ignore the restlessness inside me, it all came pouring out after one dirty martini on what was supposed to be a romantic date night with my husband.
I started randomly crying at the dinner table, muttering on and on—something about how I felt like I could never get the toilets clean enough. My husband—though surprised—tried consoling me by offering me practical advice. Though he listened lovingly, I had a hard time expressing myself, and I left our date feeling defeated and ashamed of my inability to “keep it together.”
Still, that night turned out to be an important step for me. Confiding in my husband and admitting my inner struggles out loud was the first step towards change. Saying it aloud gave me permission to fall on my knees in prayer, because—it turns out—you can’t surrender to the Lord when you’re trying to have control over everything.
This happened right before lent, so I decided to use this as an opportunity to invite spiritual change into my life. I began brainstorming the most sacrificial things I could think of, in hopes of cultivating the peace my heart desired. I was seeking dramatic transformation and, well…I was damn near ready to wear a hair shirt every day for forty days if it made things better!
As I planned, however, I felt God whispering in my heart to stop trying to earn His love and force the process.
He didn’t want my plans—all He wanted was for me to rest.
Instead of sacrifices, I felt the strong nudge from God to simply go to bed earlier for lent. No hair shirt. No fasting from my favorite treats. Just rest.
It felt strange submitting to this, and silly telling others. Yet, I knew my act of obedience was all God was asking of me. The least I could do was say yes.
I set a bedtime of 9:45pm—two hours earlier than I was accustomed to going to bed. I’d always considered myself a “night owl,” and while the idea of going to bed earlier was nice in theory, it was much more difficult for me to initially put into practice. I had to work hard against my will to be roaming around a quiet house while everyone else was asleep. Those late night hours became a way for me to “shut everything off”; a respite from my daily duties. The time was quiet and my own…and I liked it that way.
However, when I actually started to physically rest, I soon learned that it was exactly what my weary soul needed.
For the first time in a long time, I began to wake ready for the day. Instead of grouchily greeting my family in the morning (feeling burdened by their immediate needs), I woke up happy and ready to serve. I also realized that my late night habit of endlessly scrolling on my phone or watching trashy tv was having a negative effect on me and depleting my resources. I thought this quiet “me time” after everyone went to bed was essential, but in reality, these things were merely temporary fixes for my inner restlessness.
Since I couldn’t always fall asleep right away, I started reading more. In bed, I read both “The Temperament God Gave You” by Art and Larraine Bennet and Holly Peirlot’s, “The Mother’s Rule of Life.” These books helped me better understand that you can’t love yourself or others properly when you don’t have a drop in your cup to give. I realized I had to take better care of myself—my priorities were completely misaligned. Through these books, God began teaching me that I was placing my value in my productivity and in what others thought of me. I was also treating my vocation as if it were a job I could clock out of, and this made life exhausting!
There’s a line in Psalm 127 that helped me understand more clearly why my old habits were so destructive. Psalm 127:1-2 says,
“Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build. Unless the LORD guard the city, in vain does the guard keep watch. It is vain for you to rise early and put off your rest at night, to eat bread earned by hard toil—all this God gives to his beloved in sleep.”
In staying up late, I was trying to escape the burdens of my day. I was being vain in thinking I could fill my cup with empty things. What I needed to do was learn to rest in Him. Without Him, my inner house was crumbling. The truth I was learning was that there was simply no way I could be the attentive, kind, present and loving wife, mother and friend that I desired to be, without drinking from Christ’s cup–the True Source of life.
As I began to prioritize prayer and daily intentional time with God, I started to internalize that my beauty, worth, and strength comes in Christ alone, who loves me and gave His life for me. Daily prayer gave me the spiritual fuel I needed to be a better wife and mother, and to show up in all the ways I’m called to in my vocation. It also gave me confidence in who I am as God created me to be. It wasn’t until I began reorienting myself to Christ that my life began to change. Though I know that not every problem or sadness we experience can be solved by going to bed earlier, that lent, the Lord taught me to take better care of myself by resting in Him. I learned that when I nurture my relationship with Him, I am better equipped to live out His plan for my life and to dedicate myself to those around me, loving them as I love myself.
Lauren Montgomery is cradle Catholic, wife and mother of three kiddos. She holds a Master of Art in Theology from the University of Dallas, and is an RCIA coordinator and teacher at a parish in Kansas City, KS. She is passionate about her faith, and has contributed to a number of publications, including Catholic Match and Radiant Magazine. She is currently sharing her passion with her new podcast, The Catholic Commons–where she’ll be breaking down the fundamentals of the faith for Catholics seeking to dive deeper in understanding the richness and beauty of Catholicism. Learn more about the podcast at Thecatholiccommons.com, or find her on Instagram @thecatholiccommons.