Sleepwalking vs. Soul Awareness

Confused as to why I woke up in the adjoining cabin instead of my own bed, I returned to my cabin and my bed that was empty, wondering what happened. It happens to 1% of preschool children and 2% of school aged ones, most of whom usually outgrow it.

I had sleepwalked through the adjoining bathroom into the next cabin and pushed the girl in the bed out and climbed into her bed. She spent the rest of the night on the floor. It all seemed rather innocuous at the time – no harm done and nothing to be alerted to. The event even made it into the camp newspaper as a humorous incident.

Mayo Clinic’s description of “sleepwalking” confirms my summer camp experience – “Sleepwalking occurs when people walk or do another activity while they are still asleep. It is also known as somnabulism.” 

How akin is this to what we do as Christians? We sleep walk through the spiritual life, not realizing that we are simply going through the motions without any real substance within – a soul disorder. We become insensitive to the Spirit of God and harden our hearts.

This phenomenon is more serious than a one-time sleepwalking incident. Like the stated characteristics of a sleep walker eyes are often glazed over – open but not seeing, moving but with little or no memory of the incident; in a stupor – shut down to paying attention to the Lord, to others and seriously soul asleep.

The Old Testament Prophets warned the Israelites of worshipping God with their lips while their hearts were far from Him – soul sleep walking (Isaiah 29:13).

The New Testament writer Paul explains the dead end results of quenching and/or grieving the Spirit (I Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30). Doing either is not a good investment of time and pays negative dividends to one’s soul. He encouraged the believers in the young, first century churches: “Wake up, O sleeper; rise from the dead and Christ will shine on you. Be very careful, then, how you live- not as unwise but as wise. Do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17)

Be attentive to the Presence of Christ, be aware, be on the alert to the foibles of the enemy of your soul.(I Peter 5:8-9)

Even many in first century Palestine did not recognize Jesus for who He was. “He was in the world and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…not of natural descent but born of God.” (John 1:10-13)

The Mayo clinic site goes on to state, “isolated incidences of sleepwalking don’t signal any serious problems or require treatment. However recurrent sleepwalking may suggest an underlying sleep disorder,” and to fit our analogy this would be a chronic soul sleep disorder.

Getting out of chronic soul sleep is a simple choice to respond to God’s invitation. Tell Him you want to walk with Him fully alive. Then, consider these appetite whetting qualities of an attentive soul from Leighton Ford’s book, The Attentive Life, Discerning God’s Presence in All Things : being fully present in the moment, looking long enough, looking freshly at what is familiar, being available, becoming aware, waiting with expectancy, being mindful, being wakeful.

C.S. Lewis recommended wakefulness as a way to penetrate God’s disguises: “We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito. And the incognito is not always hard to penetrate. The real labour is to remember to attend. In fact, to come awake. Still more to remain awake.” (The Attentive Life, 39)

When you make a choice to not pay attention to the Lord you miss out on what God wants to do through you. You miss out on intimacy in His Presence, on being a spiritual mentor and friend. You don’t notice all His kindnesses. You never know the joy of surrender to him. It is as if your soul has become comatose, not alive and unwilling to listen. It is as if you have sleep walked into "the other cabin" and not where you are supposed to be. Consider – waking up.



Gail Seidel served as Mentor Advisor for Spiritual Formation in the Department of Spiritual Formation and Leadership at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) and as an Adjunct Professor in the D Min in Spiritual Formation in the D Min Department at Dallas Theological Seminary. She has a BA in English from the University of Texas, a Masters in Christian Education from Dallas Seminary and a D Min in Spiritual Formation from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She is a contributor to the textbook, Foundations of Spiritual Formation, Kregel Academic. She served as co-director for Christian Women in Partnership Russia with Entrust, an international church leadership-training mission. She and her husband Andy live in Fredericksburg, Texas. They have 2 married children and 6 wonderful grandchildren--Kami, Kourtney, Katie, Mallory, Grayson, and Avery.