Sabbath in the Suburbs: January (chapter 6)

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In this chapter we’re reminded of a couple of things that I think it’s easy to forget.

1: Sabbath means “stop” in Hebrew. to literally stop.

2: sometimes we are forced to stop–our bodies just say “enough” and we have to rest, and it turns out that’s not the end of the world.

Have you ever had this experience? What was it like–to have to change plans, cancel things, and just lay around and let an illness or injury take its course? The forced-rest can be infuriating, but it can also offer some perspective.

And perspective is part of what Sabbath offers–we change our experience of time one day a week, and in so doing we find that our perspective on the rest of the week’s time is also changed. “Through Sabbath, we can learn the difference between urgent and important.” (p72) Sometimes, what’s important is to curl up with a book and a mug of tea, and let time float by unheeded. Sometimes what’s important is to sit and stare out the window or into the fire, and allow some space for the Spirit to speak, rather than constantly doing things (however fun those things might be!). Martha and Mary, both important.

The key to the Mary and Martha story, of course, is in one little word: distracted. Martha was distracted by her many tasks, which means that she was not present in that moment–she was thinking only of all the things she needed to do and of her resentment at having to do them. She was living in the to-do list, not in the presence of Jesus. So the story of MaryAnn’s husband Robert spending part of a Sabbath making a firewood rack can sound like it was work on the Sabbath, but it was so different from his usual routine AND he was so present in the moment of the experience–not thinking how irritating it was, or what materials he’d have to run out and get, or what the next thing on the list might be–that it turned out to be Sabbath-like because of its novelty and accessibility. This is NOT the same thing as doing a project you’ve been planning a long time and have to prepare a lot to do!

So often we are busy anticipating the next thing we have to do, or our minds are full of the minutia or frustration or judgment of the situation at hand, that our tasks–however holy and just and righteous they may appear–are not Sabbath. Beware the trap of doing good works and neglecting the commandments! (I’m pretty sure someone said that once before….)

How can you make some room for the “holy surprises” God might have in store?

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