Wake Me Up

What Gets You Out of Bed?

In a sermon I heard one time in some evangelical church, the pastor asked, “What gets you out of bed in the morning?” He went on to say that your answer is the thing you worship. If that thing isn’t God, that’s bad news. Evangelicals love “idol” rhetoric. I understand why: it’s powerful, biblical, and effective. Everybody knows idols are a huge no-no. It’s literally the first of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3).

At the time, I really didn’t know how to answer the question, because nothing gets me out of bed. If I had the option, I think I would stay in bed all day and sleep and sleep and luxuriate in my Egyptian Cotton sheets. I work best in the evening/night, perhaps a hangover from college, grad school, and my days working in food service. So I sleep late.

But I’m always tired.

I kept ruminating on the question after I left church; I guess that means it was a good sermon. Congrats, Pastor.

What gets me out of bed?

My father basically rises with the sun every day. He’s pushing seventy, and every morning he is up and out the door by 6. He then puts in a twelve hour day at the company he loves to run. He loves his job, and is excited by the challenge of it. When he turned sixty-five, he half-heartedly started vaguely talking about maybe partial retirement. That idea lasted maybe a year.

This personality quirk of my father’s makes me wonder if we are related. We are, but we might as well be strangers in this area of our lives. It takes a true act of God to get me out of bed before 9 AM. By act of God, I am, of course, referring to an early flight, an appointment, or a good friend.

What gets me out of bed?

My morning ritual is similar to your average high school aged boy: snooze as many times as possible, begrudgingly get up, get ready and run out the door with breakfast in hand, if I’m doing well. I don’t wear make-up, do my hair, or obsess over my outfit, so once I’m out of bed it takes me all of fifteen minutes to get out the door.

There is no slow waking up, making of the bed, or even devotional. I usually do that on the train. I just love my sleep so very much.

What gets you out of bed, you might ask?

Obligation, guilt, and shame.

One or a combination of those feelings are the catalyst I need to leave my sanctuary.

I am ashamed to still be in bed, so I get up. I don’t want to be late for a meeting or appointment, so I get up. I berate myself into rising most days. I wonder what people will think of me if they know I stayed in bed until 10, 11, 12, and so I get up.

But if I just stay in bed, I won’t have to face the things that exhaust me. And yet they meet me there in my bed. When they find me, I get up.

I want to want to get up. I want to spring out of bed ready to take on the day. But I would rather hide. And besides, yelling at and shaming myself have been my primary motivators since I can remember. I don’t know how to do it any differently.

So what does this say about what I worship? Gotta give that sermon some practical application. I think there is a connection between what keeps me in bed and what makes me so tired. I’ve spent most of my life obsessively managing the feelings of those around me without any regard for my own. At least, that’s what my therapist says. And for a long time, I used the Bible to justify this unhealthy behavior. We are called to pour out, to serve, to give and give and give.

I could do that. I’d been doing that since I was four-years-old.

I think I was initially attracted to Evangelicalism because it seemed to reinforce so many of the dysfunctions I was living. It was easy to see myself as a no-good sinner because I had shamed myself for having any wants or desires, healthy or not. I was tangled up in an obsession with looking strong and perfect, but knowing that my best attempts would never measure up to my own standard.

This is textbook perfectionism. From the outside, it might not seem like such a bad thing. Afterall, in interviews, you’re not supposed to say that perfectionism is a weakness. Apparently it seems like you’re bragging. But I wonder if the interviewers actually know how dibilitating it is.

If they did, I’m pretty sure they would see it as the detriment that it is.

It doen’t mean that you do your job too well. Perfectionism is an unhealthy fixation that you are somehow capable of making zero mistakes. It either leads to arrogance or despair. Neither of which are positive work attitudes.

I have known I had a problem with perfectionism for almost fifteen years. I got a tattoo five years later to remind myself that God’s power is made perfect in weakness. God likes to use contradictory ideas as if they make sense. He likes to turn things upside down to show you how they are right-side up. It reminds me that I can’t control much of anything. But that doesn’t keep me from trying.

I like to guilt myself into repentance and restoration. It’s the classic “New Years Resolution” technique, which rarely works. It is effective until it leads to despair. What’s the point, I inevitably ask? I’ll never be able to do it right, so why should I try?

I’m asking the wrong question. Because people are mostly too self-obsessed to notice the things you are killing yourself to do for their approval. I know I am. So my reasons fail quickly.

Maybe I should be asking how: How do I try? How am I supposed to change twenty-four years worth of built up habits? How do I go from guilt-based worship of others’ opinion to earnest worship of God? Maybe just knowing to ask the question is a start.