I have an over-active brain.
I always have.
When I was a child I would lay in bed at night and make a plan for how to get the entire family, including the pets, out of the house in case of a fire. Had we ever had a house fire? Nope. But my fevered little brain just knew it was going to happen – and that it would be on me to save everyone. Never mind that I had two perfectly awesome parents and a fabulous older sister right there with me. It was on me to save us all.
As an adult, I still have that same over-active brain.
And it still loves to do its most creative, grueling and unreasonable workouts between 1 and 2 AM.
I don’t imagine disasters like house fires now.
Instead, the brain kicks in with a to-do list. And a problems list. And a “how-are-we-going-to-deal-with-THAT?” list.
During the day I do a much better job catching the lists when they start to march through my mind. I wrestle them to the ground by using these steps:
Write down what needs to be done.
Pray over it, releasing it to God.
Move on by simply doing the next thing.
Repeat as needed.
But in the world of half-awake, that process is much harder to do. I keep a pad of paper and a pen by my bed so that I can write it all down
if when it wakes me up. And I used to have to do that A LOT. And then I would toss and turn. Look at the clock every few minutes. Calculate how many hours of sleep I could get if I fell asleep THAT instant. Insomnia at its finest. And face all those problems the next day in a groggy state.
But then I discovered a different strategy. One that works much, much better, at least for me. I use my A-B-Cs of God to redirect my thoughts. And generally, I drift off to sleep somewhere around the letter G. Once or twice I have gotten to Z and then had to start again. But that is exceptionally rare!
Here’s what I do:
I start with the letter A. I like to say that I use the names and characteristics of God, but it is more accurate to say that I use anything that starts with the letter that I am on, as long as it is about His character and heart.
Here’s what it might sound like (sometimes in my head, sometimes aloud):
“A: God You are awesome. Almighty. My All in All. The Alpha and Omega. All that I need. All around me. Abundant in your mercies. Absolute. Awe-inspiring.”
And I keep going until I am out of A’s. Sometimes that is in a word or two. Sometimes it is a long list. Doesn’t matter. When I can’t think of another A, I move on to B.
“B: God You are bold. Beautiful. The Best. The Bomb. (Sorry, readers, my ‘80s are showing!) Breathtaking in Your goodness, greatness and mercy. Beyond my comprehension. Before all things and the glue that holds all things together.”
And, by the way, that last line in the Bs was from Colossians 1. I will definitely use verses and snippets of songs to fill in my list!
I should add that I don’t stress about the Js, Qs and Zs, if I get to them. I don’t stress about anything on the list – I just keep naming things until I run out – or I am asleep.
Another version of this is to name all that you are thankful for alphabetically. I have not tried it, but I bet it would work as well. However, I like focusing on Who God is because it puts everything else in perspective. It is the practical working out of “taking every thought captive to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5) and setting my “heart on things above (Colossians 3:1). And 99% of the time I drift off to sleep without getting out the paper and pen, without looking at the clock, without fretting about the to-dos.
Praying for you as you “take every thought captive”, that you will sleep well tonight…