"When we live without listening to the timing of things, when we live and work in twenty-four-hour shifts without rest – we are on war time, mobilized for battle. Yes, we are strong and capable people, we can work without stopping, faster and faster, electric lights making artificial day so the whole machine can labor without ceasing. But remember: No living thing lives like this. There are greater rhythms, seasons and hormonal cycles and sunsets and moonrises and great movements of seas and stars. We are part of the creation story, subject to all its laws and rhythms."
- Sabbath by Wayne Muller
One of the most life-giving trips I've ever taken is our 1 year anniversary trip to New Mexico, because on this trip, I learned the meaning of rest. Our dear friends had given us access to their cabin in a valley in a tiny town that's barely on the map called Las Mochas. As we drove 11 hours through the dry, flat plains of west Texas and then into the green, winding landscape of New Mexico, we felt our souls take a deep breath in anticipation of a week totally removed from busy, modern life.
When we arrived, we saw that there were a few houses scattered nearby, but we didn't encounter a soul. The cabin was nestled between stately evergreens with its backyard emptying into a creek with unspoiled rushing water. On the other side of the creek, the forest trail led to fields of wildflowers.
After unloading our bags in the house, we jumped back in the car to drive to nearby Taos, a lovely, artsy little town, and strolled wide-eyed through Cid's Food Market marveling at all the unique locally-grown, organic food items, throwing them into our cart one-by-one. Juicy tomatoes, ripe peaches. Homemade granola. Sweet potatoes. And plenty of free-range eggs. We returned to the cabin, unloaded our bounty of food, and covered all the clocks with tape.
For the next week, we had no concept of time. We lived by the rhythms of nature. We went to bed when we were tired. We used only candlelight in the house after dark. We awoke not by alarm, but when our bodies rose naturally. We spent our days photographing hummingbirds, reading, and wading in the creek. The days were so long. And we rested.
Fast-forward two years, and I wonder what happened to the "me" who went on that peaceful trip in New Mexico. I so long to find her again.
A few days ago, I was sitting at my desk at the end of a long week, and in the middle of typing what seemed like my thousandth email, I suddenly burst into tears. I just sat there and sobbed for several minutes until I felt that I had cried out all my frustrations, sadness and lost-ness that had been building up inside for awhile. I couldn't articulate exactly what was making me cry, though. It felt as if simple things were throwing me over the edge. My computer freezing. Adding another thing to my mounting to-do list. Picking clothes up off the floor. I thought about calling a friend to ask for help, but I honestly didn't know what to say. I didn't know what exactly it was. So I just dried my eyes and got back to work.
This weekend, I'm reading my book, Sabbath by Wayne Muller. It's one of those books I want to read and re-read in my life and buy copies to have on hand to give to everyone I know. It says...
"Without rest, we respond from a survival mode, where everything we meet assumes a terrifying prominence...when we are moving faster and faster, every encounter, every detail inflates in importance, everything seems more urgent than it really is, and we react with sloppy desperation."
That explains the emotional breakdown over socks being left on the floor.
"There is a South American tribe that went on a long march, day after day, when all of a sudden they would stop walking, sit down to rest for a while, then make camp for a couple of days before going any farther. They explained that they needed the time to rest so that their souls could catch up with them."
That was what I needed. I needed to give my soul a chance to catch up with me.
I'm learning what it means for me personally to have a "Sabbath rest." My husband could be surrounded by 20 of his closest friends 24 hours a day and be utterly peaceful and at rest. That is a rarity for me, and I often feel drained after being with people constantly. This is a battle within, because I love having our home open to people, I truly do. But if it's constant…one busy weekend leading into a busy work week and back to a busy, social weekend, I start to crumble and cave into myself. In fact, I utterly fall apart.
With my work, the problem is that I feel that I'm always capable of more. I've heard many people in "ministry" jobs say the same thing: I can do more, so if I can, why shouldn't I? This is not how we were meant to function as creatures. We were meant to listen to the rhythms set before us by nature, not constantly push ourselves against nature. Sitting at a desk all day with hands and head and neck in stationary postion. Shoveling in food on a 25 minute lunch break only to quickly get back to work again. Staying up all hours of the night and waking up to a blaring alarm.
"If busyness can become a kind of violence, we do not have to stretch our perception very far to see that Sabbath time – effortless, nourishing rest – can invite a healing of this violence. When we consecrate a time to listen to the still, small voices, we remember the root of inner wisdom that makes work fruitful. We remember from where we are most deeply nourished, and see more clearly the shape and texture of the people and things before us."
This weekend is a Sabbath Weekend. What I'm learning in this book is that there are many, many ways to celebrate a Sabbath, and it doesn't always have to be on Saturday or Sunday. We can have "Sabbath moments" for a few minutes or "Sabbath walks" for thirty minutes. The point is to celebrate God's goodness and provision and being. So far this weekend, I have sipped a lot of hot tea, propped myself on the couch with my feet resting on my husband's lap, and listened to the sounds of the Olympics humming in the background. I've sat on a big fluffy bed and read and gazed out the window. I took a walk in the neighborhood.
And amazingly, I feel much more prepared for Monday.
I admit, I still don't know how to balance my intense desire to achieve and accomplish, particularly in a work setting. But I'm still reading and learning and reading and learning, and I look forward to gaining more clarity as I go.
"Like a path through the forest, Sabbath creates a marker for ourselves so, if we are lost, we can find our way back to our center."
As for this gorgeous, peaceful place, I hope to return one day...
...but for now, I've got to find rest in the midst of this crazy city. The point is taking my hand off the plow, knowing I can't do it all. Knowing that God can and will work through me, that His strength will be the life that courses through my veins. And that by keeping my focus on the rhythms He gave us in this world, I can truly find rest.
"Sabbath is a way of being in time where we remember who we are, remember what we know, and taste the gifts of spirit and eternity."
All quotes from Sabbath by Wayne Muller.