I do not know why but I find myself in this second half of life thinking a lot about Sabbath. I have an inkling this is normal. I suppose we don’t put much stock in Sabbath until we have seen enough and done enough to learn that our incessant seeing and doing does not get us all that far.
When we start to learn this, we think: “Well, maybe if I took a break, I’d be able to get farther and do more in the long-run.” So, we start practicing rest for utilitarian reasons. We think that rest will help us accomplish more.
I suppose that is a step in the right direction. But that’s more like marrying someone because you’re in love with the idea of love without actually loving the other Person. We want what “being in love” will get us without the scandal of “being loved”. One experiences the first type as a state of control while the second case is something that lies beyond one’s control.
Sabbath is not something we can manipulate. “If I do this, she will do that.” The ancients personified Sabbath for this reason. They called her Queen Sabbath—and she will not be controlled. But, she is good. Under her rule, we live in love—a love that is granted by divine fiat, not earned—just because the King that comes with her is himself love.
By its own virtue and character such a sovereign act reminds us: “There is nothing you can do to earn this love. There is nothing you can do to earn this love. There is nothing you can do to earn this love.”*
The only way to cherish, honor and love Sabbath is to stop “doing” in heart, mind and body. As soon as we start “doing” we stop loving her.
This is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. (See? I still can’t escape that word “do”!)
I do know one thing, though: if practicing Sabbath is something we do, it is more like play—for in play we rest while doing.
(*The words in the quote above are adapted from Frederick Buechner)