Picture it: Saturday. That glorious American day set aside for yard work, housework, and catching up on that never-ending cycle that is laundry. The sun is shining, the kids are playing happily (that is, fighting like cats and dogs over a toy we literally have 7 of ), and I’m schlepping boxes up from the basement to our newly-placed ceiling-mounted storage in the garage. And what do I come across in my living room, but my beloved spouse, chillaxing on the couch with a book. Doesn’t get up, doesn’t offer help, just gives me a pleased glance and continues about his undoubtedly pleasurable celebration of literacy. Now before I give you the wrong idea, let me tell you, my hubs is the most helpful significant other in the universe. This particular instance was just the tipping point in what became an extraordinary journey for our family.
So back to that Saturday. I am dumbfounded. Completely taken aback at the gaul my hubs is willing to display by not offering to assist in said schlepping. Of course, I could have asked him for help. But I feel like after several years of marriage being passive aggressive keeps things fresh by harkening back to the early days. So naturally I schlepped many, many more boxes up, and naturally, rather than taking them out the back door to the garage, I dragged them across the living room to the sliding glass door, where each movement (accompanied by a well-timed sigh and potentially dramatic wipe of the brow) would be sure to awaken him from this book-reading zone-out and pull him into the reality that is an unhappy wife. No such luck. So after many more melodramatic ploys to get his attention, I finally asked him “DUDE DO YOU SEE ME WORKING HERE???? ARE YOU GONNA HELP?!?!?” His response: “I’m sorry. Yes. I will. It’s just…I’m trying to observe the sabbath.”
The SABBATH?!?! Clearly this was not the response I was expecting, and a relaxing-on-the-couch-read-fest definitely didn’t jive with my Southern Bible Belt version of the sabbath. The “remember the sabbath” commandment I grew up with meant going to church on Sunday morning, then spending the remainder of Sunday doing church-related activities. Nowhere in there did I remember leisurely chilling on the couch while one’s spouse worked like hell at getting stuff done. (I should add that he broke the Sabbath at that point and helped me with the box-schlepping.) Without sharing too much of his story, I can tell you that my hubs has an incredible faith journey, and that now, if someone were to ask him about it, he’d tell them “I don’t follow the traditions of men.” He’s an extraordinarily faithful person, a follower of Yeshua, and identifies at this time mostly with a Hebrew-roots version of Christianity, that is to say, he’s not a fan of the modern super-organized church, and is more interested in the very simple elements that the earliest followers of Christ would have observed. This has been something that he’s grown into over a number of years, and something that I’ve been hesitant at best and vehemently opposed to at worst, up until recently.
Here’s the deal. The unifying thing for most people who turn against organized religion tends to be that the church has let them down, and that just hasn’t really been the case for me. In every instance of my life, when things were hard or I felt abandoned by the world or the people in it, the church has come through for me.
In the worst of times, I could always go to church and sing a hymn or say the Nicene creed and feel the renewing of my spirit. So the idea of embracing some version of religious practice that didn’t go with what I’ve always done was beyond upsetting for me. I dug my heels in, and even as I proceeded down my lenten journey, waking up and reading scripture every morning, I found myself praying, “God, change his heart. Please just show him back to what we did before.” I always feel like the moments when I tell God to get on my side are the exact definition of pride before the fall. By the third week of Lent (and lots of passive aggressive demonstrating how scripture showed that I was right), I finally changed my prayer to “Please God, change my heart.” If there’s anything I should pray over myself on a regular basis, it’s humility.
I’ll spare you all the details of the journey, but ultimately, in my weeks of fasting from social media and technology, I dug into books like Sam Nadler’s Messiah in the Feasts of Israel, Robin Sampson’s A Family Guide to the Biblical Holidays, and A Day Apart: Shabbat at Home. We celebrated Passover as a family, and the hubs and I started a Bible study together: Feasts of the Bible, the companion study to Sam Nadler’s book. Most significantly, we’ve started observing Shabbat- that is, we work tirelessly all week so that every Friday at sundown we light our candles, say prayers of thanksgiving for our food and drink, and for the blessings of the week, say blessings over our children and one another, and enjoy a celebration meal together. And all day Saturday…we rest. It’s crazy, but we do. No technology, no work. We literally just spend the day enjoying our work from the previous week.
Here’s what I was missing from before: the Sabbath is the day God set aside to rest after seeing His work was good. And he commands his people to do the same. This is so hard for me. Since becoming a stay-at-home-mom (if you’ve been following for a while, you’re probably tired of hearing this) I’ve struggled, and I mean really struggled, to find fulfillment in my work. It literally never ends. Without the constant praise and attention for a job well done, it’s hard for me to feel satisfied with what I’ve accomplished. And with the cyclical nature of housekeeping and child-rearing, it’s hard to feel like anything is ever finished. Until now. I work like a fiend all week to be sure the house is clean and meals for the weekend are prepped (and I’ll elaborate on those processes in my next series of posts), but on Fridays, sometimes an hour before sundown, I enjoy lighting the candles to welcome Shabbat. I love it. Yes, there will be crumbs under the table that will need to be swept. Yes, there will be recipes to try and ironing to finish. But when the sun goes down, for 24 hours, I’m finished.
Whether you’re particularly religious or not, rest is a beautiful and beneficial activity. Our culture works so hard to emphasize productivity- we should always be producing, creating, improving. It’s exhausting. We can never stop to enjoy what good we’ve done, because we’re constantly striving for whatever is next. Wherever we’ve arrived, there’s always somewhere better for us to go. One of the greatest benefits to my fast from social media was the absence of comparison- I literally had no idea how I was doing in comparison to other moms out there, and it was blissful. My only gauge for what I should be doing as a mom came from how happy and healthy my family was. Is everyone wearing clean underpants? Is your belly relatively full (never mind of what)? Are you brushing your teeth without ingesting too much toothpaste (see previous question)? Excellent. Winning.
On a more serious note, I’ll confess that while I have considered myself to have a rock-solid faith foundation for a very long time, I’ve also been constantly seeking to see and value myself in the way my faith has told me I am valued by my Creator. It’s hard. I’ve struggled, and struggled deeply. But this, this observance of rest, has given me the opportunity to listen. To stop moving, stop rushing, and hear that I am enough, that what I’ve done is enough, and that my life is so much bigger than just what I can do. That the purpose I serve is so much greater than what I can produce. And that pausing to be thankful is an essential part of finding peace. I’m still going to church on Sunday, still singing my favorite hymns and still reciting the Nicene creed, but I’m also setting aside time every week in the form of Shabbat, which has become now a must-have for me in terms of restoring my soul and preparing for the new week.
So here’s my post-lenten mantra: Go where you’re led, and grow where you’re fed.
Who would have thought that moving to the middle of Mormon country, we’d find ourselves embracing a boiled-down, Hebrew-roots version of the faith I’ve always loved? But here we are. I don’t know if we’ll do this forever, or if there is something else waiting for us on the horizon, but I’m finally open to whatever that may be. If our move has taught us anything, it’s that even in the most unlikely of places, there can be a bigger plan than the one we create ourselves, and if we trust it, we can find a level of happiness we couldn’t have imagined.
Here’s to finding our way, friends, whichever way that may be.