My father’s flannelette pajama shirt was always cozy and warm. As a child I would climb up on his lap, cuddle in and go off to sleep. The rhythm of mums knitting needles clicking beside me added to the feeling of being held and loved.
It was a place of deep trust and security. I could rest there. Sleep was the most natural thing to do.
Sadly, I know that many have not had that sense of deep security and trust from being lovingly held as a child. Fathers, and mothers, may well have been avoidant, abusive and intolerant of that deep need. Perhaps they also have never experienced it.
One of my favorite pieces of art is ‘Let the Little Children Come to Me’ by Carl Christian Vogel von Vogelstein
Based on the story of Jesus welcoming the little children.
Little children were brought for Jesus to lay his hands on them and pray. But the disciples scolded those who brought them. “Don’t bother him,” they said.
But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and don’t prevent them. For of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” And he put his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left. Matthew 19:13-15
There is a spiritual practice called Visio Divina which means ‘divine seeing.’ The participant is invited to encounter the divine though images.
A famous example of Visio Divina is where Henri Nouwen sat in front of Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son and contemplated the painting alone for hours.
So in the painting of ‘Let the Little Children Come to Me’ I invite you to come to Jesus.
As you observe this picture reflect on these questions.
- What emotions does this image evoke in you?
- What does the image stir up in you, bring forth in you?
- How many people are there?
- What are their hands doing?
- What do the expressions on their faces relate?
- What is the artist inviting the viewer to experience?
- Where are you in the picture?
- Where would you like to be?
- Which child is in the exact center of the picture? What are they doing? If you were that child what would you be experiencing?
The invite to sleep
I often use this image as an invite to rest and sleep.
I imagine myself as that child with its back to us asking to come up on to the safe legs of Jesus.
Ok, I know that Jesus in this image seems to be crowded with children, but in reality, there is always room for more.
I see Jesus welcoming me on to his lap. I rest my head on his chest and hear the rhythm of the heartbeat. The assurance of presence surrounding me.
I am welcomed, invited, held and infolded into his arms. There is a peacefulness as I hear the eternal heartbeat. I am allowed to snuggle as close as I possibly can.
As I sleep, I know that God is at work. I don’t need to hold on to worries and fears. My day has already begun in the best place it can.
When you mindfully experience the presence of an eternal safe pillow, sleep will be the most natural thing to enter into.
- The Upper Room: Visio Divina
- 7 Steps To Enable A Rhythm Of Rest
- The First Step for a Great Day Is To Fall Into Sleep
Quotes to Consider
- Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom. Francis Bacon
- It’s hard to sleep when your heart is at war with your mind. R.H. Sin
- Let me drink from the waters where the mountain streams flood
Let the smell of wildflowers flow free through my blood
Let me sleep in your meadows with the green grassy leaves Bob Dylan
Questions to answer
- What emotions came to you through looking at the image above?
- Which child in the image do you most connect with and why?
- What meditative practices help you to slip into sleep naturally?