Lying With Lions And Lambs: Why Clergy Should Help Heal Sleeplessness
Published in The Huffington Post
Whether as a biblical icon or a secular notion, the image of the lion lying down with the lamb is one familiar to most of us. For some, it symbolizes an unattainable utopian state. For others, it holds the promise of a miracle in which opposite forces come to peace. This image is also suggestive of the most critical personal and cultural challenges underlying the sleep epidemic as well as the potential role of clergy in healing it.
Despite frequently being depicted in repose, the lion commonly symbolizes vigilance, power, and aggressiveness. In sharp contrast, the lamb is associated with innocence, amity, and submissiveness. Getting the lion and lamb parts of ourselves to lie together peacefully may be our greatest personal challenge to obtaining healthy sleep. Sleeplessness is strongly linked tohyperarousal — a relentless lionesque vigilance — as well as an insufficient lamb-like submissiveness to sleep.
Too much lion and not enough lamb also characterize our society’s fundamental posture toward sleep. Conventional approaches to the treatment of sleeplessness are lionesque, that is, informed by a highly aggressive medical posture. Rather than cultivating lamb-like submissiveness to invoke sleep, we are encouraged to fire heavy rounds of sleep medications to stun the lion.