Sunday, April 1, 2012

Ahhhh..... Sabbath

Some years ago, our family decided that, at a very minimum, it makes sense to take a shot at following all Ten Commandments.  We had a running start on most of them, but there's that one pesky one about setting a day aside...  It just runs contrary to about everything your average American protestant is brought up to believe is right and good.

Predictably, I started reading about Sabbath traditions and theologies; even more predictably, my husband sat down, laid out a working definition of "rest," and decided there's no better time than the present to start implementing.  Simply put, for our purposes, our goal is to do nothing on a Sabbath that we might have put on a to-do list.  Productivity, for a day, is off the table.

The practice hasn't come easily.  It took several months before we succeeded in setting aside one full day. After years of repetition, the habit is sinking in.  On a really good day, we'll even wake up rested.  More frequently, it takes much of the day to wind down and let the rest sink deep.  One way or the other, our entire family looks forward to the day with unmitigated expectation.  It's undoubtedly one of the most creative gifts we could receive, and we welcome it with deep, deep gratitude.

In addition to rest (plain and simple), one of the gifts of this day is its nearly magical ability to peel away layers and reveal us to ourselves.  Today, for instance, as I tucked in for a Sabbath nap, I found myself distracted by all the other things I could be doing with my afternoon of rest.  There's that great book I've been reading, and of course I'm halfway through re-watching "Contact"and I can't quite remember what comes next.  The kids are beginning to stir, and it's always great fun to hang with them.  And there's that new recipe I've been wanting to experiment with...  wouldn't it be a fun Sabbath treat to enjoy a new dessert together?!  I actually heard myself think the phrase "weighing the opportunity cost of a nap."

Really?!  Over a decade of practicing Sabbath and I'm still so painfully distracted and utilitarian! This is how I treat time most of the week, so often scattered because I'm thinking of everything else I should (or could) be doing.  But to drag that into the day of rest?!  In the light of this day of gift, my compulsions are revealed for what they are.  I can't hide behind all my "good reasons" for this behavior, because today they don't hold true.  As a matter of fact, they probably don't hold true the rest of the week either.  It just takes this day to show me that.

I'm growing ever deeper into gratitude for this gift - recognizing it as a gift without which I would most likely drown in my own humanness.  I'm given the space, the energy, and the strength to face my own frail follies.  And as I face them down, I find myself ever more grateful for the rest I find beyond myself.   Brilliant idea of God's, this one.

"All our life should be a pilgrimage to the seventh day; the thought and appreciation of what this day may bring to us should be ever present in our minds. For the Sabbath is the counterpoint of living; the melody sustained throughout all agitations and vicissitudes which menace our conscience; our awareness of God’s presence in the world."  
- Abraham Heschel