The Pursuit of Enough: Keeping Sabbath
“We rest in order to honor God and his creation, which suggests that not to rest dishonors both.”
-Judith Shulevitz, The Sabbath World
The thing about Sabbath is that there are still always dishes to do and the kids are still themselves. There are diapers to change and stories to read. And that’s my job all week long, right? Can there really be a day when I rest from the demands of raising children? There is paper all over the counter: bills unpaid and that reminder about the preschool field trip and the Valentine’s cards still sitting out. Your world is a mess and the mess wants to swallow you.
There is always more to do.
Sabbath doesn’t arrive when everything is tidy and under control. It arrives in the middle. It forces us to stop, not because we’ve finally earned our rest, but because Christ has earned it for us. There is only room to slow our pace because grace offers that pace to us.
The other day I heard one of my pastors joke that keeping Sabbath is the only Ten Commandment the Church does not expect any one to practice. And no one seems to notice or care. We’re all so busy being American: Working hard! Achieving success! Pushing our children into our culture of striving!
Who has time to rest?
How would we know what to do with ourselves during Sabbath anyway? We are used to living according to our culture’s expectations of accomplishment. We experience Time as a machine rolling over all the “life” we have created for ourselves. Time is moving through and crushing everything in its path. We are frantic people.
I’ve been thinking about Sabbath for around nine weeks now. I’ve been reading books and considering rest and asking God how to trust enough to believe I can put my computer down and quiet my head once a week. This is how I do things: seven weeks thinking about it; two weeks actually participating.
But for two weeks in a row during Lent, from sundown Saturday night to sundown Sunday night. I have kept my computer closed. I’ve used my phone as little as possible. I’ve kept the TV off. And it’s made me itch.
Yesterday afternoon, after we made it home from church and the Purim party at August’s school which immediately followed, I stood at the kitchen sink trying to move dishes from the counter to dishwasher, and all I could think was how much I needed to read Rachel Held Evans’ Sunday Superlatives. My kids were playing in the other room and my mind was flickering through every possible reason I should be online. My brain wanted to play inside the internet.
Standing there, I saw for a moment how jumpy my mind has become. I want distractions from the task at hand; I want something interesting to entertain me.
Maybe your vision of Sabbath isn’t doing dishes and fighting the urge to open your computer. Maybe your vision of Sabbath is a warm breeze and a pool and a day with nothing to do. But what I’m learning is that in real life, Sabbath exists as a discipline exactly because there is So. Much. To. Do.
Yesterday, I could have been writing. I could have been returning one of the twenty-five emails I owe. I could have been reading articles online. Yesterday was a practice in trusting God that I am not really in control of my world. I cannot keep everything moving quick enough to survive the machine that wants to crush my life. Yesterday, my pastor said that anxiety is the root of all the evil in our lives. “You won’t find anxious people who are wise,” he said.
Maybe wisdom demands we release our time to God? Maybe rest is the most real work we can do to gain wisdom?
Yesterday afternoon, after ignoring that longing for distraction, I sat on my couch with a book. Chris had just put Brooksie down for his nap and August was playing with his Star Wars ship. After Chris fell asleep on the other side of the couch, August curled up beside me with a chapter book. And I read and read and read it out loud until we all closed our eyes and rested.
We rested when there was still so much left to do. We rested because there is always still so much to do and time is not our enemy.