Sabbath: Beth’s Take

Boy, do I remember being in Angie’s shoes! At one point in my life I was parenting four kids under the age of five. It was insane.

Really. Insane. At that point, a person simply does not have enough hands or hips to manage that many little people. You move on a wing and a prayer and learn to give direction with any number of menacing, encouraging or happy facial expressions.

As a mother with young children, the idea of Sabbath was something of a joke to me. The most peaceful moments I found were pushing a shopping cart through the aisles of a Super Walmart at 10PM, when the kids were in bed and their dad was at home. I escaped with Cap’n Crunch and the delicious freedom of focusing on what brand of pasta was the best buy that week. It was a moment or two; maybe an hour at the most, but it was my time, and I found a small measure of peace in it.

A lot of years were like that. I’ve never been one to relish the early hours before dawn; I’d rather sleep. When my kids napped, I tried to nap. And I’m not sure I ever got into the practice of anything remotely resembling Sabbath in the truest sense.

Ironically – and unfortunately – I learned to understand the concept of personal rest when my kids’ dad and I separated. For the first time, I was faced with long expanses of time – often an entire weekend – without the responsibilities of parenting. Emotionally, it was devastating at first. But eventually, I learned what it meant to make the most of that time. I learned how to Sabbath.

It looked like sleeping in a little bit on a Saturday morning. Listening to music – really listening, rather than just having background noise – and feeling the emotional impact of something beautiful. Eating a meal alone, maybe something fixed for one at home, perhaps a salad at Panera.

More than anything, Sabbath is escaping the tyranny of the clock. These days, with three of my kids out the door in college and two relatively independent teenaged boys at home, there are days when a relatively unscheduled day is rather easy to do. Not because there’s so little to do – there is always something to do, whether it’s a load of laundry or a dirty bathroom at home, or if it’s a service to schedule or a person to contact through my job – but because I have intentionally decided that it is in my best interest to find rest in my days. I seek Sabbath several times a week in little snippets of down time; unscheduled, uninterrupted, intentionally without any focus other than being still. It may only be 30 minutes, but I believe it keeps me in a right rhythm.

Fridays are the one day each week where a complete day of rest is possible. It rarely happens completely, but if I am intentional about my schedule and my weakness, I can rest. Usually it means getting away; an afternoon walking the grounds of Maymont, a day alone wandering the halls of the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, a walk in the woods behind the library, an entire day at Richmond Hill. These have all provided terrific Sabbath experiences for me.

I want to model this kind of life for my children; I want them to recognize that I have chosen rest over the insanity of an overbooked schedule and an unwillingness to let things go for a few hours or an entire day. Recognizing the value of Sabbath in some form keeps us from self-absorption, from thinking we are needed to keep the world spinning.

We aren’t.

It took me a while to figure that out. It was a good lesson to learn. Nobody is indispensable, and it is God who keeps the world on its axis. Sabbath reminds us.

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