Keep Awake

by Andrew Stephens-Rennie

How do you stay awake? Whether you’ve been awake through the night soothing a crying child, or you’ve been plugging away all day at the keyboard, the factory, the monotony of your day-to-day, how do you stay awake?

For me, it’s this constant wrestling. This constant back-and-forth. Wanting simply to give in. Wanting simply to turn off, and let whatever happens, happen. I suppose there’s some faith in that. And yet what do we do when Jesus demands our wakefulness?

What is the purpose of the awakened state? Are we simply to stay awake? Simply to wait? What are we to do in this time of watching and waiting?

Whether we’re reading the parable of the bridesmaids (Matthew 25) or praying with Jesus in Gethsemane (Mark 14), there is this repeated call to wakefulness. To stay vigilant. To pay attention. Even as the forces of comfort, of complacency, of sleep creep in. Even then, we are to remain awake.

I’ll admit, I don’t do well without sleep. I simply don’t to well if not rested. And so, hearing Jesus’ words in Gethsemane, I wonder: what am I, and what are we to do?

And he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death. Remain here and keep awake.’

The teacher, the rabbi, the yet-to-be revealed Messiah, asks of us this simple thing. He has asks us to remain awake. Yet I know that wakefulness is a struggle. Eyelids weighed down. Heavier, and heavier, and heavier…

I wonder what such mindfulness has to do with vocation. With ways of living our faith in daily life. Doing more than going through motions. Engaging in deep and creative ways. Finding ways to create, to dream, to make something beautiful.

Last week, sitting in a cafe and discussing these things with Steve Frost, I wondered aloud about my next steps. Having recently lost my job, there is a distinct voice calling me to another job, another career. But I’m more than an organizer. More than a bureaucrat.

I’m a writer. A dreamer. How do these things coexist? Do I seek balance? Should one trump the other? What does it all look like?

Reading Steve’s post this morning, I wondered what it means for me to practice what he calls “the discipline of vulnerable generative activity.” With an extremely full schedule over the past year, I’ve leaned on the excuse not to write, to post, to reflect. I’ve given excuses as to why I should not make time to think, dream, and listen for poetry beyond the prose.

There has been work to do. Organisational development. Fundraising. The stuff of nonprofits.

And now, freed of such constraints, where does the passion lie? What is the call? What should I be listening for? To what am I called? As I struggle to remain awake, what will I hear?

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Andrew Stephens-Rennie
Andrew is a writer, dreamer and organizer with a keen interest in developing leaders in faith, compassion and justice.

He currently serves as the Director of Missional Renewal for the Anglican Diocese of Kootenay on the unceded territories of the Sinixt, Syilx, and Ktunaxa nations. He previously served as the Director of Ministry Innovation at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, BC.

Andrew is cofounder and contributing editor at, and co-editor of "A Sort of Homecoming: Essays Honoring the Academic and Community Work of Brian Walsh" with Marcia Boniferro and Amanda Jagt.

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