I think Sabbaths are probably the hardest part of living a rule of life. Everything from our culture has always either shouted or subliminally messaged us to think “never rest”.
Did you know though, that the Chinese character for “busy” combines the characters for “heart” and “death”. Kinda says something about constant busyness doesn’t it?
Something I have been thinking about a lot lately is that I know what I’m not supposed to do on the Sabbath (work), but what AM I supposed to do? The thing is Sabbaths look different for everyone, because everyone leads a different life. A hallmark of many modern sabbaths for instance is to turn off all electronic gadgets such as cellphones. Here’s the thing though, at least for the stage of life that I’m in, that isn’t restful. Some of my relationships with friend occur primarily via my phone, and friends are good for the Sabbath. I also would be constantly thinking about all the people that could potentially be trying to reach me, for crisis reasons or anything else. Constantly worrying over who might be trying to reach you is not restful. The silly thing is, I leave my phone on, hardly anyone contacts me, and I find rest, don’t even know where my phone is half the time because it hasn’t gone off. So for me, turning off my phone would actually be the opposite of a sabbath, that might change later on in life but it is the case right now.
I’ve been reading a book about rules of life lately, it is called “God in my Everything” by Ken Shigematsu, in particular I want to talk about some things that are written in the fourth chapter, the chapter on sabbaths.
“You may be mentally consumed with … a nagging sense of self- doubt, or are troubled by a vague anxiety that you are not doing enough.” (43) — These notions sometimes bother me during the week, but they bother me most on my sabbath, I realize that is an aspect that I need to learn to get over- but saying “get over it” isn’t gonna get me there, I need to figure out why it bothers me, and why it shouldn’t.
“Perhaps you agree that Sabbath is a good thing, even important, but actually practicing it on a weekly basis is more difficult… Sabbath requires surrender.” (44) — EXACTLY KEN!! That is exactly it, I know rest is good, I know that renewal is important, weekly practice is harder. I will full- on admit that that surrender piece, that has never been something that comes naturally to me, to quote a Ke$ha song: “We were born to break the doors down, fight until the end!”. Now I’m not saying I never surrender, but it is a learned skill not an innate one.
“We need to ask ourselves WHY we are so busy. Sabbath helps us to question our assumptions.” (45) — Ok, you’re talking my language, let’s do this!
“We feel a need to validate our worth. Sabbath gives us a chance to step off the hamster wheel and listen to the voice that tells us we are beloved by God... The Sabbath heals us from our compulsion to measure ourselves.” (45) — Good, we’ve identified the why that makes sabbaths bother me, and we’ve identified the why it shouldn’t, BUT how do we move from the former to the latter?
“Sabbath offers us a ‘sanctuary in time’.” (45)– A “sanctuary in time” eh… so the same reverence should be paid to the Sabbath as is paid to worship. And when possible, Sabbaths should include worship.
So all of this is great for theory, but what do I DO? Some suggestions are to eat different foods, engage in creative activities, notice the differences- like how sleep is better quality during a Sabbath, because it is intentionally restful.
One question… is honoring the Sabbath, and keeping the Sabbath the same thing? I’m not sure how to answer this at this time, but I’m gonna keep thinking about it.
Oh wait! Another question! What constitutes work? Aside from sleep, I can find a way to classify pretty much any activity as work in some way or another. If a Sabbath is about refraining from work then can I go the gym- after all that is physically work, can I create art- after all that involves the mental capacities and physical capacities of creating, can I meditate- after all meditation doesn’t always come easy?
One way I have come not to dwell on this (as much) is by realizing that 1) not all work is the same, and 2) some work is restful for some people. Do I work on the Sabbath, well I breathe ergo I work. But the work is restful, and I indulge in the opportunity to work (no pun intended) through things mentally and spiritually that I don’t always have the opportunity to do during the rest of the week. Is every Sabbath the same? No, sometimes I go to a cafe while my laundry is in the machine, sometimes I go the gym, sometimes I stay home and read books and watch movies, sometimes I draw. I don’t plan, I just do whatever comes to me in the moment, as long as it is not schoolwork or church-work.
Back to quotes: “leisure alone will not bring us the deepest and most profound kind of rest… we need more than simply the absence of work… [we need] rest from the inner murmur that says we are defined by what we do… we need to be free from the voice of self- condemnation.” (51) — I get this, and some days my Sabbath will consist of surface rest, because my Sabbath is not rigid, it is for me not me for it. (paraphrase of Jesus: The Sabbath was created for the people, not people for the Sabbath.) I have at times got caught up in the thought process of what exactly constitutes work, trying to analytically formulate a Sabbath by removing anything that could be interpreted as such… but much like turning my phone off, that isn’t restful, and quite frankly unless you can sleep through an entire day and not feel overslept… its not possible.
In the back of Ken’s book there are some sample rules of life, but I found one that is an awful large coincidence if it isn’t the Spirit moving.
Her name is Brittany… my name is Brittany. She is a graduate student… I’m a graduate student. She is in her 20s… I’m in my 20s. Her overall rule of life is extremely similar to things I already do but don’t have written down as “rules”. I think with some tweaking, her rule of life could easily become mine, though I will continue examining others and adapting to make mine personalized.