Walking Our Faith: Is Sabbath worth keeping? (column)
Walking Our Faith
As I drive into town, I glance at Boreas Pass as it bisects a mountain. I’m checking the progress of the Aspen, gaging when it will be time to make my fourth annual drive beneath the canopy of gold and orange with many stops to capture the glittering waters of Goose Pasture Tarn.
Autumn in the mountains is short lived and dramatic. Which makes it the perfect reminder of how quickly time passes when we are caught up in the busyness of rushing from one appointment to the next, never quite noticing another week has passed.
But as autumn sweeps away summer with golden leaves, snowcapped mountains and frosty mornings, I am reminded of the summer Sabbath experiment I began back in May, and I want to share what I’ve learned and consider whether it’s a practice worth continuing.
When I began my Sabbath experiment it was for spiritual reasons. I wanted to know if it would deepen my relationship with God. After five months, it has done that and much more, which I believe is the gift of Sabbath.
The concept of Sabbath is first mentioned in the Creation Story at the beginning of Genesis: “Thus, the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:1-3)
Isn’t it remarkable that at the end of six days of creating the universe, God makes a point of not only resting, but declaring the day holy (“set apart”)?
We see God’s intention for Sabbath by his inclusion of it in the Ten Commandments, tucked in amongst laws of loving God and not coveting our neighbor’s belongings or spouse. God not only rested, but he commands us to rest every seventh day, as well.
As my Sabbath Sunday approached each week, “set apart” became my touchstone. I discovered the importance of intentional choice. Turning off the TV and avoiding social media, were viewed in a different light — not as deprivation, but as a vacation — making room for other activities such as going on a hike, reading a book or having a long conversation without distractions.
I read Senator Joe Lieberman’s wonderful book on Sabbath, “The Gift of Rest.” Because I am not an Orthodox Jew, the same Sabbath laws were not always applicable, but the spirit they provided was very useful. Some of the themes that I incorporated were Sabbath as a time for family and friends, making them a priority as I put aside work, viewing rest and play as restorative. And with time to notice God in nature and in other people, realizing Sabbath opens space to worship God more deeply.
Henri Nouwen wrote, “A life that is not reflected upon eventually loses its meaning and becomes boring.” I believe this is a gift of Sabbath.
As the summer progressed, I found myself looking forward to Sabbath. I discovered that I became more mindful of the choices I made. During the other six days of the week, I am often so focused on moving from one deadline to the next, I reach Friday and wonder where the days have gone. But on Sabbath, time slows to a gentle pace that is restorative.
I have learned the most about Sabbath not by reading books, truth be told, but by simply living Sabbath — very imperfectly.
There were Sundays when my old habits crept in. Since I go to Mass on Saturday evening, I used to spend hours of Sunday morning watching political programs from 8 a.m. until the afternoon. I’ll admit there were a few Sundays this summer when that’s exactly what I did and afterward discovered I felt as awful as if I’d indulged in too many sweets.
The same goes for social media. Why is it so difficult to not check Facebook and Instagram for just one day a week? So of course, I made silly rules, “I’ll just post pictures, but I won’t look at anyone else’s.”
Has my Sabbath experiment been a success and will I continue to observe Sabbath? Yes, and absolutely yes.
It has given me another appreciation of God’s wisdom, since Sabbath is his commandment. It has given me a desire to spend more time with God, not just on Sabbath, but a longing to seek him out during the week, as well. My Sabbath is very much a work in progress. But observing Sabbath has changed the way I view time, how I spend my days and discovering my need to be mindful.
Sabbath has also given me a greater appreciation for my need for community — spending time with friends and family. Putting aside my pursuit of work for just one day enriches my relationships and gives me a rested mind to go back to work on Monday, making me more productive.
I hope you will incorporate Sabbath into your life. If you have questions or comments, please contact me. I look forward to your thoughts.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson is the author of 10 books, available at Next Page Books and Nosh. She lives in Breckenridge.
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