August 10, 2018

Be. Give. Share. Accord.

"By the seventh day God had finished his work. On the seventh day he rested from all his work. God blessed the seventh day. He made it a holy day because on that day he rested from his work, all the creating God had done. This is the story of how it all started, of heaven and earth when they were created."Genesis 2:2-4, The Message

Have you ever had that feeling when you get home from a vacation and say to yourself, "I need another vacation!"?

Sometimes this comes after a vacation filled with physical activity; walking, hiking, surfing, etc. Or if you're an introvert, it may be a vacation filled with lots and lots of people and you end your vacation exhausted by all the extroversion. For certain, this vacation was filled with lots of people and plenty of physical activity but none of that was why I felt I still needed a vacation by the time we got home.

Not long before our scheduled vacation, my supervisor had told me I needed a break–the energy I was expelling wasn't endless. I appreciated the care and concern but did not think too much about this because I love the work I get to do.

Yet, we all have limits.

By the time I sat down on a plane to head towards our family hometown for two weeks, I found myself saying under my breath, "I need a break!" The boss was right. Within a few hours, I was walking along a beach with my shoes off. It was incredible ... but I still struggled to relax.

I confessed in my Instagram story recently that I don't rest well. I have mastered the art of displaying a sense of calm but underneath I tend to be restless. Throughout the majority of our time away, I could not say I felt relaxed until the last few days when I began to find a rhythm–a pattern of routines that help me rest. Like riding a bike, the muscle memory began to set in. Unfortunately, we are already beginning to prepare for a return back to our busy lives.

In Judeo-Christian traditions, there is a connotation between rest and the word "sabbath." Sabbath is intended to be a period of time during which labor is abstained from. It is a concept rooted in our creation narrative. After creating the cosmos and appreciating its goodness, God rested. Throughout his ministry, Jesus is documented in the Gospels in speaking about the sabbath. After being criticized for healing people and gathering food to eat–understood in that culture as work–on the sabbath, Jesus says in Mark's Gospel, "The Sabbath was made to serve us; we weren’t made to serve the Sabbath." Throughout his responses to his sabbath-activity criticism, Jesus implies that the sabbath exists not only for abstinence from activity but to renew life.

In his great meditation on the sabbath, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, "There is a realm of time where the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord." This sense of being, or presence, does not mean we do nothing. Rather, it means we do the things that increase our presence–or availability to and awareness of God, our loved ones, our neighbor and ourselves. Heschel contrasts the activities of our common, everyday lives with sabbath activities: have vs. be, own vs. give, control vs. share, subdue vs. accord. Be. Give. Share. Accord. These sabbath ideals require action, but they are actions that subvert the norms and expectations of our harried culture. My realization towards the tail end of our vacation was that I was trying to abstain from activity without realizing I needed to engage in those actions that give life; to be, give, share and live in accord.

This makes me wonder, if I create time to practice those activities that are defined by Heschel's sabbath characteristics throughout my everyday life would extended rest come easier for me? What are the activities that help you live into a sabbath way of being? For me, writing is one of those activities that when shared gives me life. I am attempting to create time for that sabbath activity. How will you find ways to be, give, share and live in accord; practicing sabbath in everyday life?

Photo by Ilham Rahmansyah on Unsplash

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