This Tagalog (Filipino) adage is wonderfully subtle and far-reaching in application. What are the things that a conscious person needs to be awakened from? Certitudes. Old wives’ tales. Fear-filled superstitions. Comfortable behaviors. The way things have always been done. Even when we think we are being ruggedly independent, my experience is that we’ll awake to find ourselves trailing along after age-old human practices and conventions. We’ll learn that we are really just “creatures of habit” after all.
And that applies to our beliefs about God and Christ as well. All too often our Christianity slumbers, or lies dormant, in the routines we were taught as a child. And so we follow doctrinal forms mindlessly, repeating rote explanations with a juvenile, limited perspective that should have been long outgrown.
If we yearn for a deeper Christianity, we need only to study the lives of great Christians throughout the centuries. George MacDonald, for example, tells us to push back from “all the stupefying, enervating, distorting dream” we are living in. Being asleep in the habits and conventions of the natural life blocks our view of the “wide-awake real” that the Lord is ever showing us (Unspoken Sermons, “Life”).
And yet, such an awakening is not easy. MacDonald wrote that we need to have the “will to wake.” We must hunger for something more than this world’s repeating pattern of custom and response. That is what the Lord asks of us. Then, when we are open to the possibilities of life in spirit, in Christ, his “wide-awake real” transforms everything. Ever the jangling alarm clock, Paul affirms this very idea in Ephesians: “Sleeper awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you (NRSV 5:14). (Turning Aside to See, 2011)