I don’t know about you, but I have many broken sabbaths under my belt. I hear about people taking Sunday, or perhaps another day of the week, to rest, spend time with family, and open themselves to God. A part of me longs for such a day. However, work intrudes, especially church work – meetings, reports, activities. Then, by the time the day has ended I look back and wonder what just happened. Rushing from one activity to another I become lost, unhinged. Once the evening hits I’m weary, definitely not eager for the work week to begin. Reflecting on this manic days, several common threads occur to me.
- My work and I are indispensable. I must be part of all these activities or things will fall apart. If I’m not at a meeting, who knows what will happen? In a similar vein, I have a sense that I must get all the work on my calendar finished in order for other people’s activities to proceed. Sometimes this is true. However, the list never really shortens no matter how much I work on Sundays.
- Poor planning. Empty days rarely remain such on my calendar. If someone comes and offers an opportunity, I rarely say no. With the calendar full of events, I don’t leave time for the care needed for the most important projects and relationships in my life. To address this problem, Sunday often becomes a day of cleaning up loose ends. Yet, when I get to Monday, even if I’m a bit ahead with my list, I’m so exhausted that I find it difficult to work effectively.
- I can live without it. Doing is more important than being. Even though I may not voice it, a deep part of me believes that those people who need to take a sabbath are weak. I, on the other hand, don’t need to rest from work. So, I come home from church, where I spend time meeting with people, planning activities, and putting chairs in order, and jump into a project. A nap might be sandwiched in between, but I am proud of the work that is calling me.
Ultimately fear underlies all these other issues. What will I do? The emptiness of the day scares me. I should be doing something productive. Something of worth. Not wasting time. It’s easier to set myself up to work on the next project, than to meet this emptiness. Even relating to people gets dicey. Meetings and such are well-defined, but just hanging out . . . What will happen?
Looking at just a few of my reasons for not keeping the Sabbath, it’s clear that it’s not the Sabbath that’s broken. I am the one slipping into faulty reasoning and comfortable ruts. In the midst of all this rushing, on the Sabbath and other days, I have a growing sense that I am losing something even more important than getting work accomplished. The community around me is slowly eroding.
My first response is that I just don’t have time to keep up relationships. However, Judith Shulevitz in her book, The Sabbath World, contends that the Sabbath actually creates space for community. This practice allows for the time needed to draw people into relationships. Without the need to rush around to work and other obligations, people come together – for meals, games, being. Sounds plausible. It also speaks to a deep need within my soul.
So, as a first step in keeping the sabbath I will be sitting down with this book. Anyone want to join in?