11.10.2006

No Rest

In college and shortly afterwards, I tried to take a weekly Sabbath,
or day of rest. It's one of the Ten Commandments, and while the Bible
also instructs us not to make it a legalistic thing, if done well it
can do wonders for your spiritual health and your relationshp with
God. It is one day out of seven to cease from the striving that can
so easily drive and define us, to be still and to renew our connection
with and focus on God.

This struck me as a healthy, if challenging, thing to commit to, and
to the extent that I could, I tried to do that. Even after getting
married, I can fondly remember weekend days spent Sabbathing: while my
wife was working a double shift on a Saturday or Sunday, for example,
I could go on long bike rides or read a book in a green patch downtown
or sing my lungs out at home.

The introduction of a little one into our lives has, as you can
imagine, changed the calculus of our schedules. My potential free
time to Sabbath has been chopped by work and parenting
responsibilities into sixteen two-hour chunks: morning and evening
each day, and Jada's naps on the weekends.

My morning chunks are already booked: personal devotional time +
exercise + getting ready for the day has me digging Jada out of bed
without a minute to spare. I usually have to devote at least one
evening per week to house chores, paperwork (more if my stack of bills
is joined by adoption application administrivia), and church meetings.
One night a week, I meet up with a good friend for prayer and
accountability, and squeeze in the weekly grocery run to avoid
expending another free evening. And at least one of the two afternoon
slots I'm capitalizing on my only daylight free time at home to do
some sort of outdoor chore.

That leaves four two-hour blocks to read, do social things, relax with
my wife, and do Sabbathy kinds of things. And I am embarrassed to
admit that there are weeks when I don't use any of my free time on
such things, important as they are but so easily swept aside in favor
of more administrative finaglings or mindless sports website surfing.

I just read a great little short book by Henri Nouwen called "Clowning
in Rome," which speaks of the importance of solitary contemplation and
Godward reflection. And I am convicted, to paraphrase a Christian
best-seller, that I am too busy NOT to make time for such things. I
have engaged in the sin of drivenness, a virtue in our go-go-go world
but a vice in God's world because it acts as though our value is in
our works and our success is by our doing.

Described in this way, drivenness is just as godless a lifestyle if
not more so than one consumed by substance addiction or material
covetousness or seething anger. In some regards, it is a far more
insidious sin because it comes off as noble, in the eyes of both the
religious and secular. For who could find fault with someone who
seeks to maximize the minutes given to him to live?

Yet if I am found "maximizing" in ways that minimize my connection to
the One who gives me purpose and strength and triumph, if I sacrifice
completely the rest He offers in exchange for more me-centered
striving, what have I truly gained? It is true, as Jesus put it, that
"the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath," so we
must take heed that we aren't exchanging legalistic striving for
legalistic resting. Nevertheless, the command is no less true no
matter how we approach it: God invites us to rest, and I will seek to
do better in accepting that invitation.

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