Living a Purposeful Life
by Shery Abdelmalek
“I will not give slumber to my eyelids until I find a dwelling place for the Lord.”
How many days have I wasted because I did not find a dwelling place for the Lord? All I had to do was give Him the smallest of parts of my day, yet I skipped it, as if it were insignificant. The days that turned into weeks and then months taught me one thing.
Every day that does not end in prayer and repentance is a day wasted. Repentance is the cure of all human disease. The very substance that keeps the soul alive. When we were made for the Creator, separation from Him will take its toll soon enough.
To think that in all that time, I could’ve been learning, I could’ve seen His glory, I could’ve been used to bring His children closer to Him – but I chose sleep. While the objective is not to dwell on the past, looking forward there needs to be a rationale for consistent reflection and repentance in prayer daily.
The key to a successful life is culminated in this very verse. While we get caught up in the day to day cycle of life – this verse is the reason why the days feel wasted. A day that is not started and ended with Christ as the foundation of everything.
Throughout all of King David’s afflictions, he knew that he had to find a dwelling place for the Lord. He wasn’t going to sleep thinking about the wars he was going to fight, he wasn’t going to sleep worrying about his enemies, or even his earthly kingdom. At the end of the day, he found a dwelling place for the Lord.
C.S. Lewis says, “If you live for the next world, you get this one in the deal; but if you live only for this world, you lose them both.” Being trapped in the cycles of life comes down to this – every time we rely solely on our own hard work, we’ve missed the bigger picture. It is hard for one to kick against the goads (Acts 26:14), but that is exactly what we do every time we rely on our own efforts, and not on the sustenance that comes from above. If King David could leave an entire kingdom in the hands of God, we can probably remember Him during our assignments, exams and job proposals, too.
So many monks and nuns were known for their lack of sleep. Tamav Ereeny would pray that her two hours of sleep would feel like eight so that she could spend her nights in prayer. St Bishoy hung a rope around his head that it would be lifted if his dropped in sleep while praying.
It took me a long time to even begin to realise the wisdom in this. In my ignorance, I would think, if they devoted their life to Christ why would it matter if they slept? They were going to wake up and keep praying anyway.
In the wisdom of the church fathers and mothers, we see the value of time. Every day that you do not find a dwelling place for the Lord before you sleep, is a day gone to waste. If the example of the monks and nuns is testament to anything it is that once you get a taste for the Lord, you can’t get enough of Him.
There is a direct correlation between wisdom and making the most of our time. St Paul says, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeemingthe time, because the days are evil.”(Ephesians 5:15-16). We can be fooled into thinking that what we don’t do today, we can do tomorrow. Everything in this world is finite, especially the days. In this present moment, can we see that we are ready to meet with Christ? We don’t know what tomorrow holds, we only know the here and now.
From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, every night that you come before the Lord with a broken and a contrite heart, that is a meaningful day. St Jerome says, “Walk cautiously and prudently. Cast off folly. Take hold of wisdom. In this way, you will be able to avoid changing yourself constantly as you walk through the vicissitudes of the times. Rather you will find a unity within yourself even amid the diversity of the times.”
There is wisdom in spending nights in prayer that separates it from making the most of any other time of day. At the end of a long day, when all you want to do is rest, that is when prayers are heard loudest. We pray hardest when it is hardest to pray. For King David, that verse was written in his distress and afflictions. For the monks and nuns, they would pray to the early hours of the morning, when they were exhausted and the flesh was weak. For it is in those moments, where the flesh is unwilling, that we share in Christ’s suffering.
There should be a level of difficulty to prayer. If the flesh is weak then we can say with St Paul that, “I will boast in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9). That is the value in swapping rest for Christ. Christ matters more and I pray we never lose sight of this.
For every day, let there be a night where we find a dwelling place for God. Glory be to His Name forever, Amen.