“In the relentless busyness of modern life, we have lost the rhythm between work and rest. While many of us are tremendously weary, we have come to associate tremendous guilt and shame with taking time to rest. Sabbath gives us permission; it commands us to stop.” ~ Wayne Muller, Sabbath, Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight In Our Busy Lives~
It was a gorgeous sunny day yesterday! A magnificent day for a relaxing walk, enjoyment of nature, time with friends and family, good food on such a day of rest. The Sabbath day is time to stop the flurry of work and worries here on the homestead. A time for us not do any business to make money (or spend money), run around doing errands, heavy work or try and catchup with all the “to do” projects. Instead it’s time when we are able to pull ourselves out of the every day, “fast”-paced workings of life and bring things to a slow down. A time to renew our spirit to prepare us for the week ahead.
Time out: a Sabbath sensibility
WHAT MAKES Sabbath observance so startling to me now is that from an economic standpoint, it makes no sense at all. Why would anyone work much of the year preparing a field and a crop for harvest and then, in the middle of a relatively short harvest season, sometimes with full knowledge that it would rain tomorrow, stop to rest? Sabbath observance could, and in several instances did, result in serious financial loss as crop quality was compromised or the crop itself (if the weather didn’t improve) was simply left in the field to rot. Surely this part of my past should be written off as a naive remnant of an antiquated religious tradition. Besides viewing it as unnecessary, we might even condemn it as wasteful and financially irresponsible. Perhaps looking upon this practice as foolish, few farmers still observe the Sabbath today. The occasions to eat and be together as a community seem fewer and farther between. Our week and our weekends, rather than being tuned to gratitude and delight, seem focused upon maximum productivity and profitability.
Why, then, did my family and so many others refuse to bale the hay or bring in the grain on Sundays? I suppose one could attribute their (in)action to the stubbornness of habit, but this explanation would miss the point. Sabbath observance, even if not always clearly communicated or understood (its fuller meaning has only dawned on me much later in life), reflected the profound sense that life’s success is not to be measured by the extent or pace of our own striving. Instead, Sabbath rest provided a weekly chance to reflect on what our living, even the living of the animals on the farm, is finally for. It provided the occasion for us to acknowledge and celebrate the natural, social and spiritual contexts which make life possible at all. I do not recall the time of Sabbath as contributing to feelings of anxiety or insecurity. I remember it rather as an oasis, a time to give thanks, relax, rejoice and refocus in the midst of sometimes turbulent and always unpredictable farm life. Sabbath observance, in other words, showed us the importance of giving up our controlling, anxious grip on the world so that we might learn in a regular and concrete manner what it means to trust in the grace of God and community and to welcome and respect the gifts on which all the living depend.
What Ever Happened to the Day of Rest?
Here are some suggestions for carving out sacred family time during your busy weekend:
Prepare a special dinner together. Light candles, break bread and toast with wine and juice to celebrate the end of the workweek. Include one favorite dinner food for each family member.
Spend an hour of family time in total silence. Turn off any televisions, stereos or noisy appliances. Encourage family members to meditate, read or simply nap.
Go for a long walk in a local natural setting together. Allow your pace to be slow and meandering. Appreciate your surroundings and any natural objects or phenomenon you notice along the way.
Acknowledge and surrender any lingering worries from the previous week. Take time during dinner to discuss all that you feel grateful for. Share stories and lessons from the previous week.
Indulge in a playful activity such as bowling, picnicking or seeing an afternoon matinee. Try to find an activity that everyone can agree upon or rotate responsibility for choosing to a different family member each week.
Open your doors for a few hours to family and friends for dinner, tea or refreshments. Try rotating the hosting responsibility once a month so that preparation and clean up don’t become a burden. Emphasize relaxing and enjoying each other’s company over making a big fuss.
The Sabbath has been celebrated for thousands of years, but sanctity will not enter our weekend without our explicit invitation. Ultimately, it’s up to us to welcome the spirit of rest back into our busy weekends so that we will feel refreshed and experience greater delight in all our endeavors.
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