Sleep is an Act of Humility {Book Club}

We are nearing the end of our first ever tandem reading experiment! Today we are discussing Chapters 10 and 11 in Humble Roots.

When Hannah talked about her grandma picking blackberries, it transported me back in time to visiting my grandparents when I was a child. They lived in Michigan and in the mornings we would go out back and pick fresh raspberries for breakfast. I cannot eat a raspberry without thinking of walking barefoot to the back of the yard and nibbling some as my sisters and I came back in to the kitchen.

Anyone else have berry memories with a grandparent? or aunt? or uncle?

I thought of my friend Joann on page 177 when she talked about her theology professor and the analogy of trying to hold three watermelons. Joann uses the analogy of a three-legged stool. One leg is God is good. One leg is God is sovereign. And the final leg is life is hard.

Remove any one of them, and the stool falls over. Without God is good, then God is just mean and he is playing with us. Remove God is sovereign and what’s the point, life is made up of only random flukes. No “life is hard” leg? We do not see reality reflected.

Later in the chapter, I loved this quote: “And in our pursuit of the vanities that cannot deliver, we are the ones who end up caught—caught in cycles of debt, spending, and indulgence and all the stress that comes with it.” So true! This idea of trying to replace the Giver with the gifts holds such truth.

In preparation for a sermon, just yesterday I spent a good chunk of the afternoon reading commentary after commentary on 1 Corinthians 12:4-7.

 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;  and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

While I am tempted to go down the rabbit trail of sharing the pages of notes I took, suffice it to say, this confusing of the Giver and the gifts, this ranking of the gifts, this forgetting they are for the common good is nothing new.

But as Paul reminded the Corinthians, and Hannah reminds us: “We feel the weight of that pride that convinced us to rely on earthly good to relieve a spiritual need in the first place.”

In these two chapters, Hannah quoted from four writers I respect: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Kathleen Norris, Francis Burnett, and Margaret Atwood. It was sort of a “who’s who” of authors!

Just after the Bonhoeffer quote I wrote in my notes: “Sloth and Pride! We are back to the discussion a few weeks ago about managing tension instead of solving a problem.” I hadn’t thought of the pride of the sluggard who isn’t willing to “expend energy unless guaranteed an outcome.” I’m wondering how that idea would go over with some of our supporters who are looking for results.

(In all fairness, to an extent, I am too. Back to the tension!)

Humility trusts God. “It teaches us that God is actively redeeming the world. And because He is, we can experience the relief of confessing our brokenness—whether it is intentional sin, our natural limitations, or simply the weight of living under the curse. Humility teaches us to find rest in confession. Rest from the need to hide, the need to be perfect. We rest by saying, both to God and to others,”I’m not enough. I need the help.”

I had four main thoughts as I read Chapter 10:

  1. Related to death makes us uncomfortable, so we do things (like cooking).
  2. But death will not have the final word!
  3. “In many ways, the act of sleep is itself a spiritual act, an act of humility. To sleep, we must stop our work. To sleep we must lay our bodies down. To sleep we must trust another to care for us.”
  4. Do you remember how much we talked about all of the magic in The Secret Garden?!!

Probably many reading this weren’t around when we read and discussed The Secret Garden several summers ago. But if you were, we all completely missed the trinity metaphor (Dickon’s mom, Dickon, the robin). I can see it! But good golly, since Francis Burnett lived several years in India, she seemed to be more taken with Magic than the Gospel. Also, Magic was quite popular at the time she wrote it, as I recall.

While I tried to pay attention to what Hannah was saying in Chapter 10, my mind spent a good chunk of time going through old files. I read A Secret Garden almost every year of my childhood and it is one of my favorite books, so every time she mentioned it, it was like I was a dog and someone yelled “Squirrel!” Chances are you were not nearly as distracted as I was. HA!

What stood out to you in these two chapters? Next week we will summarize these two books, have a Get to Know, and the week after that, start North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (free on Kindle).

See you in the comments!


Reading plan for Humble Roots and Scouting the Divine:

May 8—Chapters 8 and 9 in HR
May 15—Part 2 (The Harvest) in SD
May 22—Chapters 10 and 11 in HR
May 29—We made it! Two books read in tandem we will review and have a Get to Know 

Photo by Michael Oeser on Unsplash


  1. Ruth May 21, 2018

    I’m sad that I haven’t been able to finish either of these books– I started them, and then life got busy and something had to go. Hopefully I can pick back up for the summer.

    But I do have a berry story. I don’t know if I’ve ever been blueberry picking with my grandparents, but both of my grandma’s worked in the summer picking blueberries when my parents were kids, before machines took over. I have gone blueberry picking with my parents many times. It never fails that about 5 minutes after we start the familiar motion triggers stories from both of my parents about spending summers in the blueberry fields with their mom’s. It is sweet and a little funny to me. And now I’m longing for a fresh Michigan blueberry….

    1. Amy Young May 23, 2018

      Both would make lovely summer reads :). I love hearing about Michigan berry picking and stories. Ruth, maybe, just maybe years ago we were enjoying Michigan berries on the same day. As I typed this, I had the warmest feeling wash over me :).

    2. Elizabeth May 23, 2018

      I got stuck too — trip to the States and all. I still would like to finish Humble Roots at some point. The other book didn’t draw me or make me think in quite the same ways, so not sure if I’ll finish that one. And I have been wanting to read North and South for years! I will try to read it, but may be weeks or months behind everyone here!

      And just for the record, I love sleep. On a trip this week we heard on the radio that we spend nearly half our lives asleep (maybe that has changed in this chronically sleep deprived culture? but it’s still a good percentage I would think). Then the radio host rattled off some numbers for his life. And I actually talked to the radio in the car: “Because that’s the way God designed it. He wants us to sleep that much. Even if no one knows why. It’s how he made life work.”

      And I think it’s true. We don’t understand why we have to waste time sleeping or grooming or cooking or cleaning, when we have so many things on our list to do and we just have to do most of these things all over again the next day and isn’t it a waste? Apparently God doesn’t want us to finish these things (Kathleen Norris in “The Quotidian Mysteries”). So all these things are acts of humility and trust.

  2. Rachel May 22, 2018

    Not with grandmothers or aunts, but we did live in a house once that had blackberries in the back yard. We were only there for 1 blackberry season, so there aren’t a lot of memories – just a handful of tart blackberries. Two years ago, we were staying with my parents in a friend’s beach house. It wasn’t beach front – it was on a canal. So we could fish from the yard, but we had to walk a few blocks to get to the beach. One evening, as we were coming back to the house from the beach, my mom spotted blackberries by the road. She picked a dozen or so. My sons weren’t impressed.

    A few things that caught my attention in these two chapters:

    Emphasizing that the thorns in the parable of the sower were not just cares of life but also riches and pleasures. We don’t want to hear this, do we? And I’m not sure I’ve ever heard it emphasized in this way. The point typically made tends to be more about the “cares,” which turns out quite similar to the hardship experienced by the seeds on stony ground. When we pursue otherwise good things as a way of coping with living in this world, those good things keep our attention off Christ and choke our faith. This contrasts with the earlier chapter on privilege, in which we read that we should receive all as a gift from God to be responsibly used for his glory.

    The crown of thorns and the curse from Genesis 3: “This was not simply a way to inflict pain, to press barbs into His profoundly human flesh. This was an attempt to humiliate Him and mock His power. What better way to diminish the King of the universe than to crown Him with the very curse that hangs over His creation?” I appreciated this insight. The crown of thorns is way more significant in light of the curse than when I thought of it merely as physical torture.

    Finally, the quote from Mitali Perkins (after the part about The Secret Garden and the Trinity) – “For years, these spiritual mothers and fathers had been teaching me about the Bible. I just didn’t realize it.” This is what I love about good fiction.

    1. Amy Young May 23, 2018

      Rachel! Thanks for your berry story 🙂 Fun to read through the berry stories :). Thank you for teasing out the thought of the thorn of crowns and how it ties back to Genesis 3. I missed that (or it didn’t stand out to me at the time), but your comment caught my attention and now I’m thinking about this point.

      And an AMEN to the power of good fiction!

  3. Michele May 22, 2018

    I really loved these two last chapters and I have way too much highlighted from them. I think there is so much depth it’s kind of hard to articulate the way things struck me. Chapter 10 was one of those very timely readings because last weekC the awareness of how I have been trying to find satisfaction in gifts instead of the Giver was in my face all over the place. Hannah’s words spelled out what I was feeling and connecting it all back to pride was helpful (thought painful)! Chapter 11 was beautiful to me too. I love the idea that death is the ultimate blow to our pride: “All our life, humility is working to this end: Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit. I give up. I surrender. I trust,” and that in the end “we finally become what we truly are… But when this happens, when the creature is finally and fully humbled, the world rights itself.” I also love the idea that sleep is practicing. For many years I ran on about five hours per night. I can’t anymore, but I see more clearly how it was pride that kept me doing it for so long.

    Definitely a book I need to read again.

    And a few years ago I had some raspberries after probably a decade of not tasting one, and was INSTANTLY transported to my grandparent’s garden and kitchen. My grandpa loved a dish of them with half and half poured on top. What is it about berries and grandparents?

    1. Amy Young May 23, 2018

      I know?! Who knew there were so many berry + family stories. :)!

      I read a quote about rest today that made me think of your comment, Michele, and the ideas of pride: “Once people feel nourished and refreshed, they cannot help but be kind; just so, the world aches for the generosity of a well-rested people” (Wayne Muller).

      Been ruminating on that today. It struck something deep in me and I’m trying to pay attention.

      1. Michele May 24, 2018

        Wow, that’s a great quote! I may need to stick that on the board over my desk and keep dwelling on it! Thanks!

  4. Spring May 23, 2018

    I didn’t grow up picking berries. My husband loves to find edible berries in the woods. We never did much with them more than eat them. His ability to figure out the edible and non-edible is beyond me!

    I re-read the Secret Garden with my oldest daughter about 2 years ago. I agree there was a lot of magic in it. I did miss the symbolism in the trinity.

    What struck me most about these chapters was the attitude of trust in God is what overcomes. I loved the quote from Spiritual depression that talks about preaching to yourself. I love how God brings fruit out of brokeness. I loved the ending, I am not sure it will cure my insomnia. I do see that it is an act of submitting myself to God, seeing that it’s not about me, and trusting in his greater work

    1. Amy Young May 28, 2018

      His ability to pick edible berries is beyond me too :).

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