The Rebellious Pillow: A Story
November 20, 2017—I know a man who likes to sleep, although he’s not a lazy person by any means. He is responsible, competent, and productive in his work, but he likes his sleep! In fact, he is the only person I know who actually enjoys his sleep! Most of us recognize that we need sleep and so tolerate spending a third of our lives sleeping—but this fellow relishes the experience. Like an enthusiastic hobbyist, he collects those things associated with his passion. He has a comfortable bed specially chosen to meet his standards. His bedroom is designed for comfort and rest, not recreation—no television, stereo, or books by the nightstand for him! Only his favored bed, soft sheets, warm comforters, an embroidered nightcap for cold nights, and soft lights occupy his bedchamber. Oh, and one more thing…his pillow.
Now, please believe me when I say that this man is a decent fellow. He enjoys the benefits of a good education, and generally, is not of a violent disposition. However, if you ever witnessed his evening ritual before falling asleep you would think him an angry, violent person, perhaps even a little disturbed. You see, every night before falling asleep, it’s the same thing: after putting on his pajamas and getting under the sheets he tears into his pillow with a fury that would alarm Attila the Hun. He grabs the pillow in his hands, shakes it violently, screams at it, throws it on the bed, thrashes it, punches it, stomps on it, flails at it with his fists, and finally wrestles it to a spot near the headboard where, exhausted, he lays his head on the pummeled pillow and falls into a fitful asleep.
Observing such a strange sight you would be inclined to thing that this man is playing with a few cards short of a full deck. But if you understood the whole story you’d know that the problem wasn’t with the man, the problem was with the pillow!
It all started about six months after he bought the pillow. In the beginning everything was fine. The man had shopped around for just the right pillow. After looking long and hard he found what he thought was the perfect pillow: downy soft on the surface, firm in the middle, luxurious in texture. The pillow was expensive and he paid more than he should have, but anything was worth a good night’s sleep—and this pillow would make for some sweet dreams and a night of blissful slumber. And so it was in those first few months. The man took good care of the pillow—fluffing it every morning without fail, and in return the pillow provided a place of sweet repose for his head.
But the honeymoon lasted only a few months. As the weeks passed the pillow became rebellious, and that’s when the blows started. No matter what position the man placed the pillow, it would move around to a less comfortable spot. The man would fluff it to provide a gentle resting place for his head, but the pillow would create lumps so hard he would wake up in the middle of the night with welts on his face. No matter how hard the man tried, he could not make the pillow conform to his head. In the end, the only way either of them got any rest at night was after an exhausting wrestling match. It seems the more the man tries to make the pillow conform, the harder the pillow rebels against him. Theirs is a contrary dance—two souls locked in a battle of wills.
1 Peter 1:7; 13, 19; 1 Thessalonians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 6:19. 20; James 1:2, 3; Hebrews 12:5-11
- Have you ever been caught up in a battle of wills with someone? Describe it.
- To what extent do you think God tries to will us to conform to the desires of God?
- Do you think it is possible to change things by “willing”? Explain.
- In your experience, is it a rule that the more you try to exert your will on something or someone to achieve a certain outcome, the opposite seems to happen? Explain.
Adapted from The Tree of All Hearts: Modern Parables for Teaching Faith, by Israel Galindo and Alex Gonzalex.
Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning and Director on Online Education at the Columbia Theological Seminary. He is the author of the bestseller, The Hidden Lives of Congregations (Alban), Perspectives on Congregational Leadership (Educational Consultants), and A Family Genogram Workbook (Educational Consultants), with Elaine Boomer and Don Reagan.