Image used by permission Hutchison Street Sabbath in Montreal by Carole Spandeau
Anna had just finished cross-country practice when she opened the passenger side door of my car and sat in the seat next to me.
After a few minutes of chitchat with my oldest daughter, she asked a very direct, yet inquisitive question.
“Dad, why do certain religions have a day when they don’t work or do anything?”
It was a fantastic question. And just the kind of question I love to answer.
I explained to Anna that the Sabbath was a day of rest given to mankind at the very beginning of creation. It was a day in which all work activity was to cease so that people could rest, rejuvenate, and give thanks to God.
I then further explained that Sabbath was central to the very heartbeat of Judaism, as God instructed them through His law to abstain from any activity that constituted work. Sabbath was, not just true for His people, but also the animals and the land. Animals were to be given a day of rest each week and the land a year of rest for every six it is worked.
As I explained Sabbath to Anna, and how important it is to our well being (mentally, physically, spiritually, relationally, and communally), I began to think about my childhood and how every business in our small town stayed closed every single Sunday. And as I thought back to that time it made me so profoundly sad. It was a sad realization that there had been something so simple and so life-giving built into our culture, given for our benefit, rooted in the very foundation of creation, and we lost it… we walked away from it. And there was not even as much as a whimper when we lost it.
Maybe because we lost it so slowly. Maybe because it started as one store and then another and then another. Maybe it happened so subtly that our pace didn’t really change and we really never recognized what was truly being lost. Maybe if we would have lost it suddenly then we would have realized the magnitude of what we were giving up.
It wasn’t just stores and businesses. It was us. Individuals.
We were walking away from Sabbath as something that was optional, even a little archaic.
It was insignificant… of little consequence. If we lost it… well… we wouldn’t be missing anything.
But Sabbath was a fortress wall behind which we could retreat at least once a week to find our breath and maintain our rhythm. Behind the towering walls of Sabbath we found respite, relief, and peace and even regained our sanity because it was the only thing strong and sturdy enough to withstand the unrelenting assault of busyness, 60-hour work weeks, and capitalistic greed.
But here we are now as wayfarers and travelers, with not even as much as a faint memory of where we used to be. Another generation, and the generation after that, has come along after us and has been introduced into a world, and a culture, that does not stop, that does not rest, that does not take time to breathe, and does not understand our desperate need for sacred space.
The pace at which we are moving is increasing without any evidence of slowing down.
The amount of information coming at us at any one moment is doubling and tripling in the wrong direction.
The degree to which we are connected to technology only promises to make us more connected and more connected… not less.
And to be honest… it feels like suffocation or drowning or losing control or all of them at the same time.
But to many, including Anna, I am fearful that this feeling is shockingly normal… because they have not known any other way.
And it is evident.
In our anxiety.
In our stress.
In our mania.
There is no denying that we are paying for it heavily with our minds, bodies, and souls.
And the thing is… the forces keep coming and they continue to increase and they keep taking more and taking more.
It is subtle but incremental… and completely overwhelming.
We cannot turn back the hands of time. Our 24/7 world is not going to change. Life will only get more intense. New communication tools, nanotechnology, and human engineering will increase the number of tasks an individual can do simultaneously. We will look back with nostalgia at the 24/7 world once these “advances” make 48/7 a reality. If we wish to have a weekly day of rest, it will no longer happen as a societal default. It will happen only as a result of conscious choice. All we need to begin is to “remember,” as the Fourth Commandment tells us. We must remember the why and the how of a day of rest.
He is right. We cannot depend on our societies, our governments, our businesses to make the right choices or create sacred space for us. Once we abandoned the sacred space of Sabbath, there is nothing left but empty promises that will never give us what we keep hoping to attain- a better life.
The fortress of Sabbath still stands. It is still there. It hasn’t fallen or been destroyed. We just left it. The doors are still open to enter back into a Sabbath’s Day rest… to stop the madness… to stop the cycle… to stop the work… to escape the forces that are overwhelming us and imprisoning us.
The Sabbath doors are open and beckoning us to come back and take a deep breath and spend time with family and play with our kids at the playground and take a walk in the evening while watching the sunset and enjoy a meal with our friends… and discover what we have really wanted all along (but maybe never even known it)- life in it’s fullness.
Sabbath is calling us back.
I am not much on New Year’s resolutions… but Sabbath would be worth pursuing in the new year.
Have a happy new year!