A few months ago, while speaking at a college retreat, I locked eyes with someone that was medically incapable of laughter. That was my personal diagnosis anyway as I paced the stage like some sort of panther trying to get this one audience member to break his Easter Island like stare and actually smile.
It didn’t work, no matter what I said he was not going to budge, but that’s OK, at least he wasn’t asleep. That hasn’t happened yet, but it will if I speak more than three times in my life. At some point while I try to scatter insightful nougats of wisdom into the crowd, I’ll catch someone deep in slumber.
But what if you are the one that falls asleep in church? How do you reenter the atmosphere once your body has done that awkward, “Oh snap, we’re asleep in church” jerk that kind of feels like you just Quantum Leaped back into the sanctuary? I have a few ideas.
What to do when you wake up after falling asleep in church:
1. Pretend that your head bob was just a deep, long nod of agreement.
The first thing you want to do after you wake up is try to recreate whatever weird shudder or spastic head nod you did that snapped you to attention. If you do one big jerky motion and then sit there like a bank robber that’s frozen against the wall in a spotlight, it’s going to be obvious that you were asleep. Instead, do a series of head nods that look like you were shaking your head in agreement with something poignant that the minister said. “Nothing to see here folks, just really feeling this sermon. Just brushing the dirt off my shoulder and nodding along to the message.”
2. Check to see if anyone saw you.
God did, and probably Jonah too because catching people asleep in church seems like the kind of thing he’d take great pleasure in, but make sure no one else did. Assess the immediate area around you. If you lock eyes and get a judgmental “I can’t believe you fell asleep” stare from anyone, rock their world and make the international “I’m drunk” symbol with your hand by putting your thumb to your mouth and sticking up your pinkie finger as if pantomiming a bottle. As a friend of mine who recently got unfairly kicked out of a small group said, “I have officially become one of those people some folks will be surprised to see in heaven.” Guess what? So have you my sleepy friend, so have you. Might as well go all out and make the surprise that much bigger and at the same time have some fun messing with someone that is ignoring the sermon by judging you.
3. Resist the urge to pretend you were praying.
Apparently, much like Val Kilmer’s character in the movie Tombstone, “my hypocrisy only goes so far.” Resist the urge to pretend that you were locked deep in holy commune with God. That’s hard though because as a kid, the best way to sleep in church was to lean over with an elbow on each knee and prop my head up with a hand on each side. On top of that, God tells us to rest. How can sleeping be sinful? Over and over again, God reminds us of the dire need to slow down and be still with Him. The Sabbath is actually one of the Ten Commandments. Whether or not God’s intention is that we execute that desire in the middle of a sermon is up for debate. My guess is no.
At some point maybe I’ll write a post about what to do if you catch audience members sleeping. It just hasn’t happened to me yet, so I don’t have any real experience to pull from. Falling asleep in church? That I can flow on all day. But know this, when I do catch my first audience member falling asleep, they are going to deeply regret that I travel with a backpack full of ferrets.