A few weeks ago, Steve and I were walking back from Flushing Meadows-Corona Park with Bandit (my seester’s dog – we were doggie-sitting) when I saw a Jewish man ask a random guy on the street to press his car key for him so he could get into his car. “It’s the Sabbath, you see… I can’t press the button. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
We live in somewhat of a Bukharan Jewish enclave here in Queens and we’re very familiar with what happens when the sun goes down every Friday night. Suddenly the streets get quieter, store owners lock up their stores, there are less cars on the road, and there is a kind of calm that comes over the neighborhood. For the next 24 hours, it’s like we’re living in a completely different area than we’ve lived in the other 6 days of the week. It’s a strange experience at first but we have gotten used to it and we love it now. Less people and less cars on the road means, for 24 hours, we feel less stress and more free to walk around and explore the neighborhood. We are beneficiaries of the Sabbath that our neighbors are intentionally practicing. I find this quite profound.
I remember saying to myself at the end of Lent season a few years ago (during which our church practiced Sabbath-keeping as a community) that I would try to continue to keep the Sabbath. Honestly, I had not considered it seriously again until I took this new job 3 months ago. Apparently, it’s a strongly suggested practice for all staff members at New Life Fellowship. This place highly values rest and almost makes it a requirement.
Requirement to rest…….?
What kind of workplace is this?
Pardon my phrasing here, but, I suck at resting. For some of you reading this, you’re thinking that I’m crazy. Why would I resist rest? For others, I know you know exactly what I mean. When I took the job, I knew I would have to deal with this area of my life that just wasn’t working very well for me. Then, to rub it in my face, it was talked about again a few weeks ago at church. Then they preached on it again a week after. I knew it was time to dig a little deeper into why Sabbath-keeping is so difficult for me.
I’m not a workaholic but I am a productive-aholic. So even when I’m not “working”, I have a compulsive urge to do something that has immediate results that I can point to and say, hey, I got that done. I’m pretty sure this is why I’m a highly administrative person, even though my true self doesn’t enjoy administrative tasks. Administrative tasks always (or almost always) produce tangible, visible results. I don’t really want to clean, but I like to clean because I can point to a tidy room and say, yes, I accomplished this. I don’t want to work as an accountant but I did it for 12 years because there are specific daily duties that I completed where I was able to say, yep, that’s all done. Somewhere deep inside, idleness and open-endedness, including things like resting, reading, watching movies, taking a walk, writing a piece of music, were very much deemed as “unproductive”. I absolutely enjoy each of these activities but delighting was not a value of mine for a long time so it felt like a waste of time to engage in such activities.
What a sad person I was! Literally!
At New Life, we teach people that the Sabbath includes these 4 elements:
What I’m slowly (very slowly) learning is that Sabbath is a wonderful gift. The more I resist Sabbath, the more silly I find myself as I say, “No, God! I will not rest! I will not delight!” If I don’t say YES to God, the giver of Sabbath, I miss out on an amazing opportunity to experience him in my inactivity. So I continue on this journey to dig deeper into, what I call, my Sabbath Rebellion.