Honouring the Sabbath

My Mum sent me a text earlier this week.  She said she had been thinking about the posts I write.  And thought it was interesting how they fitted in with a series they'd been listening to at the church they attend.  Their minister has been talking about the Sabbath and what it means in todays world.  The Sunday before he had talked about how sad it is that many of us wear being a workaholic as a badge of honour. How being busy become the new black.  He believes we all need Sabbath moments within our week.  By that he means moments of space just to be.  And this got me thinking.

When I was growing up in New Zealand weekend trading didn’t exist.  I remember when Saturday trading was first introduced.  I remember it because my Dad owned a menswear shop in a mall in Christchurch.  The shop owners weren’t happy about it, even though it was only half a day they were told to open.  They weren't happy because it would take them away from spending time with their families.  They already worked hard enough during the week.  No-one was keen.  But shops opened anyway.

Half a day of trading on a Saturday turned into a full day.  Then shops began opening on a Sunday.  It became the norm.  Weekends were no longer that.  The week never ended.  Weekend days blurred into weekdays.  These days there are even banks that open on a Sunday back home. 

When I was 25 I travelled to the UK.  I spent 18 months working and living around England.  For three months I lived in Stornaway, working as a community paediatric physiotherapist.  Stornaway is on the Isle of Lewis and Harris, off the northwest coast of Scotland.  It was the middle of winter.  Which meant it was cold, desolate and incredible. 

Even though it was 1999 Stornaway still had traditional rules set around the Sabbath.  Shops weren't allowed to open. You couldn’t even buy a paper or bottle of milk.  You couldn’t even get on or off the island.  If you left on a Friday you couldn’t fly or ferry back in until the Monday.  It was like the island was on lockdown. 

At the beginning I struggled with this.  But I soon got used to it and grew to love Sundays.  Sundays became days of complete rest.  If it was snowing you read, wrote letters or watched movies curled up under a blanket.  On the days the weather was less brutal you ventured out.  You drove for miles and went on long walks.  For an introverted soul like me these days were bliss.  The island was quiet.  Everyone was tucked away, doing their own thing.  There was no hustle or bustle. 

Seven years earlier, in 1992 I spent ten months in Paraguay, South America.  I lived in a small town called Caacupe.  There was one sealed road through the middle of the village.  The rest of the roads were red dust or cobble stones.  Donkeys and chickens roamed the village streets.  Some of my friends lived without power in their homes.  Others without running water.  Despite the basic lives they lived, they were the happiest people I have ever spent time with.

Sundays were sacred.  It was the day families spent together.  Eating.  Laughing.  Playing.  It was a day of rest.  A day of being and enjoying life.  Long tables were set up outside under the trees.  They were filled with good food and good wine.  Stories were told.  Dogs lay under our feet waiting for leftovers to be sneakily feed to them.  No-one felt lazy.  And no-one felt like they should be doing anything else.

I don’t believe it has to be a Sunday we hold sacred in our weeks.  Or that it has to be a whole day.  But what if we were able to find pockets of Sabbath within our week?  Little snippets of time that allow us to rest, recharge and restore.  To have some downtime.  Without any feelings of guilt. 

In our house we have what we call a ‘pottering day’.  One where we have no plans.  These days are often spent on little projects around the house.  Or taking the dogs for a run.  Or heading out for a long lunch. 

We also try and have quiet times throughout the week as well.  It doesn’t always happen, depending on what time the boy gets home.  But a couple of nights a week we try and go to bed early to watch whatever series we are working our way through.  It’s nicest in winter when the rain is falling on the roof, or when the windows mist up with frost.  

The minister summed it up best when he said we all need to find ways to make time to refresh and renew in our week.  Which fits so well with the concept of slowing down our lives.  He’s obviously a wise man their minister. 

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