Thoughts on Sleep Training and the love of God

Dear brothers,

Long time no write.  I wanted to share some insights I’ve had about God’s Fatherhood based on what I’ve learned from doing Rohan’s sleep training, a la the Ferber Method:

We actually trained him (a couple times πŸ™‚ last year, and he’s been sleeping great for over six months.  However, something woke him on Monday night, so this week we’ve had to redo it:

For those of you who don’t know, Ferber involves letting the child “cry it out” by himself in progressively longer stages so he learns to put himself to sleep, and thus get back to sleep by himself even if (or rather, when) he  wakes up in the middle of the night.

Many commentators (hi Gordon! πŸ™‚ consider this barbaric / selfish on the part of the parents.  To a certain extent I did too, and had high hopes of getting him to sleep using one of the various “no-cry” methods.  While that may work for some, I fear we would’ve had to be more disciplined earlier on.  By six months, he was well established in a pattern of waking every 2-3 hours.  We finally weaned him off night-time feedings, but he continued to wake up and cry — and we continued to go in and get him right away, sleeping in shifts to survive.

What finally pushed us to do sleep training was a) the advice of our pediatrician, and b) the realization that this was bad for *him*: Rohan wasn’t getting a good night’s sleep, both due to the frequent interruptions and the discomfort of sleeping with me in a chair (or sometimes bed).  I finally bit the bullet and trained him myself while Sandhya was working late, to spare her.  It was the most painful 45 minutes of my life, but he finally went to sleep — and slept straight through!  It took about a week before he went to bed without any complaint, and a couple more before he could similarly handle naps.  But at the end (apart from brief regressions, like this week) he got regular, solid sleep — and even looked forward to bedtime!

Frankly, if it was solely about our own comfort, we would’ve kept on sleeping with him and picking him up rather than facing the mutual pain of sleep training him.  But this is what he needed to learn in order to achieve *his* best possible life.

So what does this have to do with God?

When I was in my teens and twenties, I often felt like God didn’t care about me — particularly due to my failure to have any romantic relationships. (cf. <>) I believed He was real, and good, and had a purpose for my life — but that purpose didn’t seem to include my own feelings or happiness.  My prayers seemed fall on deaf ears.

I’ve worked through a lot of those issues since then — hence my blog <> — but it still is a “tender” area for me.

Fast forward to sometime last year, when I went in to check in on (but not pickup) Rohan during one of his “crying to sleep” sessions.  I offered to give him a hug to comfort him, but he pushed me away.  I suddenly realized that even though he was crying out to me, he didn’t really want *me*.  He wanted me to “fix” the problem for him, so he didn’t have to deal with it.

When I left Rohan, I got down on my knees and apologized to God.  For the first time, I had a glimpse of what *God* must’ve felt like all those years I was crying out to him. When He desperately wanted to comfort me, but could not because I refused Him, since I was so fixated on my idolatry and my perceived needs.  When He lovingly chose to let me endure — while sharing in — that pain, because it was a vital l lesson I desperately needed to learn, but was too blind and immature to see or understand.

I don’t how much sense this makes to all of you, but it has deeply impacted my understand of God’s character.  If it pains me that much to suffer my child’s crying apparently alone for 15 minutes, how much must God’s heart bleed for the enormous suffering we human inflict on ourselves and others every second of every day for millennia?  And how great a love must it take to *not* rend the skies and make an end to everything, but patiently and tortuously work through _us_ to bring redemption to all creation?

Even if it cost Him the dearest thing in all creation, His own Son.  A price that — now that I too am a Father — I literally cannot imagine paying.


Yours in the Father’s undying and unfailing love,

— Ernie P.

Posted via email from Me Post Facto

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