Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Sabbath Made for Us

Dear Theophilus,

I have always dreamt of taking a sabbatical. Of the places I would go, the books I would read, all of the writing I could do… Unfortunately, silly things such as the mortgage, car payments, and groceries always seem to get in the way. But all of these responsibilities have not gotten in the way of my family taking mini-sabbaticals in the form of a yearly holiday, and even weekly when we celebrate the Sabbath.

I find it funny how the world rejoices in taking time off for a sabbatical, yet rarely takes time off to rejoice in the Sabbath (the very root of sabbatical).

Sometimes I think we forget that God created the Sabbath for humanity, so that we could take a break and revel in all that He had created. In fact, the Sabbath was the very first full day that humanity enjoyed in all Creation – God created humanity at the end of the 6th day (and saw that it was very good (cf. Gen 1:27-31) before …

And on the seventh day God finished the work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all the work He had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that He had done in Creation. (Gen. 2:2-3)

I know Genesis states that God rested, not humanity, but remember that Christ calls us to be just like the Father: Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Mt 5:48) And since God rested on the Sabbath, then we too should rest on the Sabbath – but how often does that happen in our digitally connected world?

There are times when we are forced to take a break from it all. It could be that our bodies begin to shut down through illness. There are times when we simply can’t keep our eyes open because we’re exhausted. Sometimes we just find ourselves somewhere where we can’t stay connected and the world has to wait until we return (although, to our humbling, it seldom does).

This was the case my family found itself in when we spent a week at a cottage at the beginning of August. My wife and I are blessed in that we are both teachers and enjoy an abundance of down time through the summer (there are moments between September and June when we don’t see this as much of a blessing, but we knew that before we even started our careers), but even with all that down time, we find we are increasingly busy through the summer months catching up on everything we put off during the school year, along with new jobs that always seem to come along. We find that we’re just as attached to the internet (via computer, phone and tablet) through the summer as we are during the school year, and now that our son has hit his pre-teen years, he seems to be as connected, if not more, than we are.

So a week at the cottage with no WiFi was a blessing of a forced sabbatical.

We still had our phones to keep in touch with family, but not being able to check e-mail, Facebook and Twitter took a few days to get used to. Being able to see the number of interactions without being able to follow-up on them had me twitching the first day or two, but then I learned to ignore them and revel more in the beauty of God’s Creation spread out before me.

Instead of staring blankly into my phone’s tiny screen, here are a few of the things during that week that was set apart (made holy):

·         Read Scripture and sip coffee beside a lake so calm it was mirror-like;

·         Pray and meditate deeply on the Rosary with my son;

·         Have Wildlife-Wednesday where I came to within 10 feet of loons, turtles, a crane, snakes, frogs, chipmunks, squirrels, geese, fish, and a lake otter;

·         Canoe and chat with my son for over an hour each day;

·         Paddle-boat with my wife;

·         Have water-noodle fights with my son;

·         Fish off the end of the dock;

·         Read in a mission church the size of my classroom.

By no means is this list definitive, it’s just the tip of the iceberg, but I found as the week went on that my pulse slowed, my shoulders relaxed and I enjoyed the leisurely pace of our mini-sabbatical. Gone were the worries of meeting deadlines, getting to appointments and the frustration of once again being invited to play an internet game.

This mini-sabbatical gave me a deeper appreciation of what the Sabbath really is: holy time, hallowed time, time set a part to truly appreciate what God has created and to thank Him for the countless blessings in my life.

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