Over the past years as I have sought to practice Sabbath, I realize that I still don’t know how. A nap on Sunday afternoon. Maybe some time with family. But then I start wondering what to do and my list of should’s drowns out everything else. I start feeling that I need to complete work before allowing myself rest. I should complete my schedule for the week. I should respond to those e-mails. I should make another list. I should finish work on a piece of writing. Most importantly, I should do something the world may see as useful. Quickly the practice of resting becomes work and I fall into old habits of doing things in order to not waste time.
But in actuality, Sabbath is about wasting time – at least in the view of the world. It’s about stepping away from work routines that prevent us from seeing that we are not the one ultimately in charge. This time of rest that God commands is a practice of trusting God with taking care of us. It is also a gift freely given. Two reasons that may help explain why I’m so uncomfortable with it. I worry whether or not God can truly take care of me; or, more accurately, I worry if all my effort will be for naught. In a way I want to prove that I can succeed along my own path. In addition, I have been taught to earn what I receive. However, God calls for rest even though so much is left undone. Even though I am wasting time. Even when I get to rest, I am concerned whether or not I am resting correctly. No wonder that at the end of Sabbath I’m often more tired than when it started.
Take a recent Sunday as an example. As usual I had to keep myself on task to rest. After a meeting at church (Not sure how I feel about meetings on Sundays. Yes, they are the best times to gather people, but they can also negatively color the rest of the day.) I returned home and my mother told me she was going to clean the church patio. Not wanting her to do it alone, I went along. Working together was a type of rest. At least I was with family and doing something outside and active. But was it really was more working, getting something done. Back home it was time to read and nap. Upon waking I read some more, but felt I was just hiding away. So, I opened the computer and fussed around. Nothing important at all. I kept thinking that I should just do the schedules, get some work done. But another voice kept urging me to turn off the computer and stop coming up with useful things to do. Waste some time. My next activity was chosen for me as it was time to help with dinner and eat. Afterwards I finally stepped away from the fretting. I started my latest counted cross stitch project. This always fills wasteful. After a few stitches I found I couldn’t see anymore because I needed reading glasses and better light. Yet, there was something freeing in even starting this work. Stepping into a project I enjoy without everything else being done. Trusting that work will be waiting tomorrow and God will provide what is needed to finish it.
Clearly, this isn’t a template for Sabbath rest, but a start. My thinking about, though eventually setting aside even small work tasks was a victory. It felt of rest, and of trusting that God will care for these should’s in time.
As I look ahead to future Sabbaths I want to continue an intentional movement towards doing ‘wasteful’ things. This could be hanging out with friends, cross-stitching, reading, walking, cooking a meal. It’s an exercise in learning what constitutes rest, of trusting God, and of inviting others along. It’s also a practice of letting go of old patterns that keep me locked into the idea that I am alone responsible for my work and that no one, not even God, can take care of me.
On these Sabbaths I desire
- To quiet the voices that say I’m not worthy of resting on the Sabbath, not doing it right.
- To stop thinking that I need to step up for God instead of resting in him.
- To recognize that I am weary and to fall under God’s yoke.