What I’m Reading: Sabbath

Sabbath book cover by Wayne Muller

Life has become a maelstrom in which speed and accomplishment, consumption and productivity have become the most valued human commodities. In the trance of overwork, we take everything for granted. We consume things, people, and information. We do not have time to savor this life, nor to care deeply and gently for ourselves, our loved ones, or our world; rather, with increasingly dizzying haste, we use them all up, and throw them away. (4)

As I picked up this book, I could feel my soul reaching for a reminder and a reassurance. In a world of external messages that pressure us to give 100% to our work, we need to be reminded that rest has inherent and balancing worth. In days filled with internal messages prodding me toward productivity as a means of self-worth, I need to fill myself with messages that counter a perfectionist narrative. I’ve recently started assessing throughout the day how depleted or energized I’ve become. Then I assess what’s important in that day–do I need to save some of my creative energy for a non-work project? Do I need to ensure that I have energy to invest in a key relationship? Can I really give it my all at work or do I need to give appropriately and carve some time for renewal?

The human spirit is naturally generous; the instant we are filled, our first impulse is to be useful, to be kind, to give something away…Once people feel nourished and refreshed, they cannot help but be kind; just so, the world aches for the generosity of a well-reseted people. (11)

The revelation about disciplined self-care and recovering perfectionism is that happiness isn’t uncontrollable like the weather and it isn’t predictable like the cycles of the moon. It takes an awareness and presence in your own life, body, and emotions. That awareness requires boundaries, commitments, and discipline to create space for happiness, joy, and peace to bloom. And when we learn how to let go, how to rest, how to prioritize, and how to love our imperfect, changeable selves, we naturally want to pass goodness along. Our world needs more people who give a damn about creating as much as consuming and people who rest so that they can return to the world in generosity.

Jesus did not wait until everyone had been properly cared for, until all who sought him were healed. He did not ask permission to go, nor did he leave anyone behind “on call,” or even let his disciples know where he was going. Jesus obeyed a deeper rhythm. When the moment for rest had come, the time for healing was over. He would simply stop, retire to a quiet place, and pray. (25)

I love the religious tradition at the core premise of this book. It’s been a long time since I’ve embraced a book with religion as a foundation from which to draw wisdom or guidance. Call it burn out from a suffocating legalism and narrow-minded religion of my youth. Call it my adult awakening about the importance of science, intellectual rigor, and redefining love separate from shame. But returning to Jesus as a source for inspiration and growth because his actions were framed as a model of self-love as a premise for sacrificial love.

As a beginning, Reb Zalman suggest we begin the Sabbath simply by saying, “Today I am going to pamper my soul.”

This quote comes from a chapter titled “Legalism and the Dreary Sabbath” which accurately described so many of the faith traditions of legalism that I have known. In that same chapter, this quote offers a new approach to the concept of preserving time for Sabbath. I love how it provides a spiritual backbone to the secular and scientific reading on the same topic of rejuvenation, balance, and priorities.

Thanks to my dearest and oldest friend, Katie, for passing this book on to me at least two years ago. I picked it up just as I was ready for its message.

Thoughts, reactions, questions? Leave them here!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s