One of my favorite times of the week starts on Wednesday evening. It’s a time built into my schedule that marks an invitation to stop.
Two weeks ago, I kicked Wednesday evening off going down to the parking garage where we keep our bicycle. We own a Dutch style cargo bike, or, ‘bakfiets.’ A two-wheeler with seatbelts for four small bodies located in an oversized wooden box built onto the frame.
Unlocking the bike, I placed the lock inside the box that sits down in front of the handle bars, where three helmets sat-two red, and one black. I was preparing to pick the boys up from school and in doing so I wanted to arrive with enough time to purchase a worthy snack to honor this time of the week. Sabbath is a time to revel in abundance-chocolate cream-filled cookies would do the trick.
My plan was to head to a place we refer to as the spider-web park. A park set in a large green space in our city, containing an enormous red steel-roped structure, stretched across sand, and setup for climbing, swinging and acrobatics of all types-attracting children and grown-ups alike into its orbit.
The boys were happy to see the bike parked on the corner as we walked out of the school. They were even more excited to discover, and then show off, their snack to friends passing by. Climbing into the bike preparing to leave, my oldest son spotted a couple of classmates and hopped out. A game of tag ensued, drawing my other two boys to demand I unbuckle their seatbelts.
For a while I chatted to several parents as our children romped around, occasionally using the bike as safety ground from being pursued. Eventually heading on our way, we made the fifteen-minute ride to the park. It was almost dark, but there was just enough light still to attract the usual double-take from those we passed, many likely heading home from their work day.
“There is a realm of time where the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord,” writes Jewish scholar Abraham Joshua Heschel in his book, The Sabbath.
I used to practice Sabbath as a stance of resistance, saying to a coercive and demanding world-I will not be owned. I then practiced Sabbath as a way to survive, crashing into the only sure time of the week where I could not be found by anyone else’s needs, sometimes discovering my own unmet ones in the process. I now see my practice of Sabbath as a sort of modality; a standard, symbolizing my eternal yearning for God’s eternal Rest, or perhaps, a time when I allow God’s eternal yearning to say it’s yes to me.
In each case, I’ve practiced some form of Sabbath because my guidance has instructed me to do so. And in any case, it is a testing, and at times terrible, practice to engage. Not least of all because there will always be something that I’m convinced needs my attention, and sometimes actually does. But a Sabbath well practiced is a cry of trust in the benevolence of a Creator and their ability to sustain their creation, including my life, with or without me.
Wayne Mueller in his book Sabbath exposes us to ourselves, writing…
The wisdom of Sabbath time is that at a prescribed moment, it is time to stop. We
cannot wait until we are finished, because we are never finished. We cannot wait
until we have everything we need, because the mind is seduced by endlessly
multiplying desires. We cannot wait until things slow down, because the world is
moving faster and faster, and we cannot be left behind. There are always a million
good reasons to keep on going, and never a good enough reason to stop.
Although it was chilly, I allowed the boys to take off their socks and shoes. Mostly to enjoy the sand under their feet, and in part to have one less thing to clean up or take off when arriving home.
It was completely dark now, other than the moon light and the several street lamps close by. I willingly jumped into a game of cops and robbers where I chased the boys, repeatedly sweeping them up into my arms and hauling them off to jail. This went on for a good while until it was time to go.
We used to kick off Wednesday evenings by lighting a candle and then speaking “Shalom, Shabbat” to one another. But besides getting to blow the lighted match out, the boys weren’t too into it. So, we stopped doing that.
Assuming the normal bedtime routine, the boys quickly fell asleep shortly after I had begun reading to them, worn out by their long day.
Looking for Taryn, my wife, I walked into the bedroom. I found her sitting up in bed performing a task on her phone.
“What are you doing,” I asked, slowly sitting down onto the edge of the bed.
She responded with something, not taking her eyes off the screen.
“Can it wait?” I offered, knowing she could sense my invitation.
She sat the phone down on the nightstand, and turned to her left, we now faced one another.
One of the things that has come to mark this practice of Sabbath, is sex.
But, besides it being a gift in itself, it has taken on a sort of tangibility in its unequalled ability to transport us to the depths and holiness of rest. And not just in the act of love-making itself.
More so, in the simplicity and exquisite gift of laying together naked and unashamed. Knowing and being known. Enjoying the quality of feeling in being together.
Hanging on our bedroom wall is a netted hammock that has come to be a sort of garment, symbolizing this embodied, mysterious quality of rest.
I am now reminded that at the heart of my life rests my marriage. And at the heart of my marriage, rests a practice that requires an intentional stopping of activity to connect. Yet the act of stopping to connect, need not wait only for time set aside to do so. It’s as simple as saying yes to the invitation given from the Source of Sabbath. The One ever resting, delighting in what is, naming it as Good, inviting us to do the same. In the process, this One invokes our awe. Where we learn to give ourselves back from our gratuitous receiving, joining in the growing, enduring and lasting “O” at the heart of creation-a chorus of praise, in acknowledgment of “Oh my God!” rising from our hearts, thus pervading all we do.
“Ultimately, we are happiest when we are relieved of the need to get anything at all. Just driving in your car, wanting nothing, watching the trees go by, can be an epiphany of perfection. Deep sleep, a day of fishing, looking into an infant’s eyes, these occasions can relax you from your search long enough to realize that you already have what you seek, that what appearances promise is a revelation of your own deep and inherently blissful nature.”
Three days after going to the park with the boys, as I sat touching up my last blog post, I got a knock on the door. It was, Taryn, who knowing the shut door signalled a desire to be left alone, proceeded anyways, needing to communicate something with me.
She said, “Hey, can I come in,” not really asking as she walked through the door.
I stopped typing and looked her way. She was beaming. She had just got out of the shower, though changed back into her pyjamas; her still wet hair, holding its natural wave. She looked stunning.
Staring at me she uttered, “Today feels like Sabbath.”
I placed my laptop on the table, which had Wolf Larsen’s “If I Be Wrong” playing on YouTube. I stood up, grabbed her right hand with my left one, and pulled her into a stumbling, slow dance in our guest room.
“The departure into restfulness is both urgent and difficult, for our motors are set to run at brick-making speed. To cease, even for a time, the anxious striving for more bricks is to find ourselves with a “light burden” and an “easy yoke.” It is now, as then, enough to permit dancing and singing into an alternative life.”
So let it be.
Onward, we move in Rest.