The ideas of Sabbath and rest are concepts that we are all familiar with on some level, but now we find ourselves in an unfamiliar rhythm of life, and sabbath has very clearly been affected.
I have asked many people how they are managing to rest in a time of what looks on the outside like unending rest… and they have all replied with the same answer… “I don’t… and what’s more is that I have never been more tired.”
Sabbath had always been, for me, a time that was separate, closed off from the hussle and bussle of daily life. It was a time to recenter, reorient, and refresh.
But now, with stay at home orders… the hussle and bussle has elbowed its way in through my front door, set itself up in my bedroom, and has begun demanding my attention at all hours of the day… and this has effectively destroyed that physical separateness of how I understand and embodied rest and Sabbath.
So how do we practice Sabbath in a world that now (at least for me) exists in 600 sq ft? Well it turns out, that that physical space part may have been a red herring, not unimportant, but a red herring to the real issue. Maybe the beginnings of an answer are found instead in not treating Sabbath like yet another thing on my checklist that I needed to get done. I had not intended for that to be the case, but in the disruption of separation between work and home, Sabbath somehow got filed under “work.” In re-reading Barbara Brown Taylor’s Leaving Church, she helped me come to this realization and remember the truth of Sabbath:
“What made any of us think that the place we are trying to reach is far, far ahead of us somewhere and that the only way to get there is to run until we drop? For Christians, at least part of the answer is that many of us have been taught to think of God’s kingdom as something outside of ourselves, for which we must search as a merchant searches for the pearl of great price. But even that points to a larger and more enduring human problem, which is the problem of mortality. With a limited number of years to do whatever it is that we are supposed to be doing here, who has the time to stop?
How long had it been since I had remembered the Sabbath? I was certainly aware of the concept. I had even declared Friday my Sabbath instead of my day off, but on that day, as on every other day of the week, I stayed very busy. I worked on my sermon, shifted loads of laundry from the washer to the clothesline during my frequent breaks, and when that was done I cleaned the litter boxes, fed the animals, and thought about what to cook for supper. The only material difference between Friday and any other day of the week was that I worked at home in my sweat clothes instead of at a church in clericals.
Observant Jews have kept the Sabbath holy for millennia, even those caring for half a dozen children and elderly parents whose needs do not stop when the sun goes down. Sabbath is written into the ancient covenant with God. Remember the Sabbath, the rabbis say, and you fulfill all of Torah. Stop for one whole day every week, and you will remember what it means to be created in the image of God, who rested on the seventh day not from weariness but from complete freedom. The clear promise is that those who rest like God find themselves free like God, no longer slaves to the thousand compulsions that send others rushing toward their graves.”
Leaving Church, pgs. 134-136
To stop, breathe, and free ourselves from the “thousand compulsions” sending us “to our grave”, if only just for 5 minutes, can be hugely re-centering, reorienting, and refreshing. Sabbath is not something outside of ourselves, or another thing to get done today… it is a reminder that we are made in the image of God, and that we belong to God, and God alone… not those thousand compulsions.
So remember to find those moments of Sabbath… remember that the hussle and bussle does not own you. Remember that when we stop and embody the rhythm of creation, the ebb and flow, we honor and remember the one who created us. Amen.