I am learning, imperfectly, how to take sabbath.
One of the funny paradoxes about this job is that Sunday, which is traditionally the day of rest, the sabbath day – becomes a work day. And not just any workday – but perhaps the most important of the whole week. So, the day that God set aside to rest on, and that we are commanded to keep holy – is the heaviest work day of all for those who have taken vows of ordination.
I surely hope God doesn’t mind that I take my Sabbath, my day off, on Monday.
This day off puts me at odds with many of my peers. For most of the employed world, Monday is the beginning of the week, so there aren’t usually many people to call and hang out with. I’ve usually gone to the farmer’s market on Saturday, so there often isn’t a need to run grocery errands and whatnot. Instead, as is the case with yesterday’s sabbath, I have the opportunity to simply sit, and be, alone.
This is harder than it may seem.
I love the idea of alone time. I love the idea of a peaceful morning, spent doing little else than drinking a cup of coffee and catching up reading the Sunday New York Times, a day late. However, in practice, I get antsy. I sit down to read but realise the fridge could be cleaned out, and set to work doing that. Perhaps then I’m too hot to sit still, so I go downstairs and dip in the pool. Then I get lonely and bored, so call my sister in Seattle. Then, I’m hungry for lunch but can’t make decisions so just keep snacking on things. And on and on and on. . .
Now, none of these things are antithetical to keeping sabbath. There are no rules or prohibitions on what the day of rest looks like – only that it is kept a day of rest. And, sometimes, I can take this rest while running errands and doing laundry. And, sometimes, even if I am sitting still at home my mind is racing and antsy and hasn’t found rest.
What I am learning, ever so slowly, is that sabbath is much more about state of mind than it is about activity or lack thereof. There seems to be a mixture of needs to be met on a sabbath day – needs for my own health (sleep, exercise), needs for preparation and responsibility (mail, groceries, laundry), and need for sabbath (some kind of spiritual retreat to mountaintop which will sustain me in my work). Sometimes I find the mix easier to handle than other times – and sometimes, like yesterday, I just can’t seem to actually unplug. I kept checking my emails and answering them, which is decidedly anti-sabbath.
But, I had this one moment – in the early evening, Bree and I sat outside on the porch, and chatted about discernment. I sipped a glass of wine and we talked about the summer, and her going to Chicago in the fall, and how we follow our calls, and some other, less serious things, too. It was the kind of chat where you just mull things over together – happy for the company but not dependant on it.
For those moments, I experienced a sabbath. I had a moment where I just rested – where I simply was, with God, recognising God. In the moments when I can find it, sabbath is a beautiful gift. And perhaps, for now, all I need is the moments.
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