Sunday, October 30, 2005

Sabbath Keeping

There is nothing quite like declaring and actually keeping a Sabbath day or two. We talk constantly in the ministry about "boundaries"--about making sure we have adequate time for ourselves so we can actually do our jobs. But in most people's everyday lives, Sabbath is not something we do. Instead we (Americans/Westerners) have this idea that if you aren't doing something productive, you're "wasting time"--as though time were a thing, a commodity, you could throw away. And maybe it is. But I would like to say that I think keeping the Sabbath is one of the best ways to avoid wasting time. Instead of throwing the time away, we are making it holy and therefore it is the best use of time. In Sabbath time we are refreshed--we take time to rest, to play, to pray, to read, to nap, to snuggle up with a certain someone and watch a movie or two, to do things we enjoy--cooking and eating, just sitting, watching Buffy, blogging, or whatever. We do not do work. We do not read things we don't want to. We do not ever have to get dressed and go outside if we don't want to!
Maybe this sounds to you like I have spent too much time at home this I've spent two days out of the past three being at home in my pajamas. Like I've been reading and sleeping and enjoying myself. You would be right. And maybe you're also thinking that I (or people who do this) must have the luxury of spending time doing "nothing." Maybe you're thinking "I have too much to do" or "this work can't wait" or "you don't know my schedule." And I will say: "so what?" (in Arabic: "yanni eh?")

I must argue that Sabbath is not a luxury we can't afford, but rather is a necessity we can't live without. If we don't spend time resting and being filled--reading/praying/being with God/being with loved ones/relaxing/etc--then how can we possibly hope to serve? How can we possibly hope to stay free from illness? How can we possibly hope to live? You notice that in the Ten Commandments God doesn't say "don't work on the seventh day, as long as you finished all the work for the week and are prepared for next week." Jesus doesn't say "okay, now that I've finished healing everyone, preaching the good news, feeding the hungry, liberating the oppressed, and teaching my disciples, I'll go off and pray and maybe have a nap." You notice that the monks don't finish everything they're doing before going to pray the daily offices. You notice that the Muslim call to prayer calls out at all hours regardless of whether there is work to be done or time to take out for prayer. The time is simply taken, and hallowed, and rejoiced in. The work will still be there. The work will always be there--if you wait for the work to be finished, then you will never rest until you die, and even then you won't have finished everything.

So maybe it's time. Time to take a day out for yourself and for God. If you don't have a day, take half a day twice, or a few hours several times (but don't underestimate the power of a whole day!) Stay in your pajamas. Read a novel, work a crossword, play a game with your family, watch a movie, take a nap, cuddle with your special someone or your special stuffed animal, order in or cook with what you have on hand. Pray. Enjoy yourself. If you think about work, push the thought out of your mind with a prayer or a glad turning over of your time to God. There will be those who call you "lazy" or "indulgent" or "selfish." It doesn't matter, because you are on holy ground.
You can't work if you aren't rested. And you can't fully trust God if you always insist on doing everything yourself in every hour of every day. You can't be a light if you never refill the oil in your lamp.

With thanks to many wonderful mentors, to Wayne Muller's book Sabbath which I read continuously for 8 months before moving here, and to God for a fantastic Sabbath weekend.

No comments:

Post a Comment