I was recently asked to describe the last six or so months of my life. As I shared the variety of things that have taken place, I stopped and for a moment thought “if nothing else, my life is consistently a roller coaster”. Up and down, up and down, sometimes all in one day. This existence is good, and hard, and full, punctuated by gratitude and grief. Which is why I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of Sabbath: a day of ceasing, a time of rest.
Many people scoff at the idea of Sabbath. It feels like a punishment: as though you must stop everything you enjoy doing, risk falling behind at work, and feel guilty about both. I have come to understand that Sabbath is actually meant to be a beautiful gift, and isn’t just a means to be more productive during the week. As John Bradshaw put it, “we have become ‘human doings’ who define ourselves by what we do in the world. [Sabbath] teaches us to remember our true essence as ‘human beings’ and to practice the art of simply being”.
This is, at least for me, difficult. I enjoy being productive. I love being with people and very easily fill up my calendar. But rest calls me to something even more challenging than to cease being busy: it invites me to release the anxiety that I carry around. Many of the hardships I face are ones that I have no control over, and yet I somehow believe that if I worry or do enough, I will somehow be able to “fix” everything.
It takes discipline to create space for rest. I long for the kind of break where my mind is not preoccupied with all that I should be doing and everything that may or may not happen in the future. I suspect that if space is made, something that I’m not planning or counting on might actually happen. As author Marva Dawn once said and I’ve quoted before, “A great benefit of Sabbath keeping is that we learn to let God take care of us, not by becoming passive or lazy, but in the freedom of giving up our feeble attempts to be God in our own lives”.
I suspect the roller coaster is going to continue. As hard as it is, I’m grateful for all the experiences that are teaching me to touch life beyond the surface. My hope is that I will keep learning to put the brakes on. Maybe as I slow down I can be reminded how to be and not simply do. In the quiet, I might even catch a glimpse of the good things in store over the next crazy hill, and instead of being anxious, I can enjoy the anticipation.