Sunday, January 16, 2011

An experiment in Sabbath

“The letters of the name of God in Hebrew… are infrequently pronounced Yahweh. But in truth they are inutterable….This word {YHWY} is the sound of breathing. The holiest name in the world, the Name of Creator, is the sound of your own breathing.That these letters are unpronounceable is no accident. Just as it is no accident that they are also the root letters of the Hebrew verb ‘to be’… God’s name is name of Being itself.” ~ Rabbi Lawrence Kushner

YHWY: Breathing.
Y = yod — Hand
H = heh — window of breath, Behold
W = vav — Nail
H = heh — window of breath, Behold

Last year, we tried to practice "Sabbath". Every once in a while we would succeed in getting everything done on Saturday and having one full day (Sunday) to not do anything. However, to make this happen our Saturdays were frenzied days of busyness and shopping and preparation and exhaustion by the time we were done. Sunday became a recoup day. Hmmm, was this Sabbath? Most of the time it occurred, honestly, when it was convenient. But then papers still needed to be written, clothes still needed to be folded, dishes still needed to be put away.... So, our "Sabbath" may be 5 hours on a Sunday. Although this was still relaxing, sort of, I don't think it's what the word "Sabbath" truly means. This year, I really wanted to embrace this word and see if God really knew what He was doing when he commanded us to do this.

I've been reading a book called "Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in our Busy Lives" that has catapulted my want to start on this journey. Last year, Mike and I wrote out a couple of "who we want to be as individuals, as spouses, and as family" statements. It was a family-mission-statement, if you will. Without going into too much detail, we wanted to be intentional, non-hurried, hard-working, passionate, lovable, available... One of the centering thoughts for me was to be non-hurried, to experience life as we went, to not look back 10 years later and wonder what we did other than achieve, consume, pursue. It's kindof ironic (or comical, depending on how you look at it) that reading the book on Sabbath pulls alot of those themes together. Six days of the week are for work, diligent work, hard work, focused work. Then one day is simply to stop. And know that the world will keep going. And know that God really does love us. And that life is ok.

I decided to start the Sabbath experience differently this year. Traditionally in Jewish custom, it is observed from sun-down to sun-down. (Hence, maybe it would get rid of the "I have to work until midnight on Saturday to get everything done...then I can rest" mentality.) I read up a little on other traditional customs for Sabbath too. You make challah bread,
you prepare two candles, you set a nice meal, you get grape juice (wine, if you're not pregnant or would prefer it), essentially you get everything ready for the next day of rest. All day yesterday was spent doing laundry, cleaning, going to the store, cooking, and baking.

By 4:30, I was actually excited about the Sabbath. While Mike was in the study, I set the table with our nice china, laid out the candles, finished baking the challah bread (which, thankfully, came out ok), and put final touches on the house to get it ready for "rest". The two candles are to symbolize remembering and observing - these two can constitute another blog to itself. 5:30 hit, the sun was going down, and we were all at the table.
Traditionally, the woman of the house lights the candles and gives the blessing of the food before the meal. And I do have to say that I got semi-tearied saying thanks to God. I think I was reminded how blessed I am - by family, financial security, the ability to even buy nice things, the ability to bake bread, the ability to have nice china, the ability to hold hands with my family. I was also expectant of something to come.
YHWY breathed and so did I.

(Just say Yahweh and see how it feels. It's an inhale. And an exhale. An inhale. And an exhale.)

We enjoyed a very nice, leisurely meal of taco soup, chips, and challah bread. (Not kosher but hey, i'm not that good.) At one point in the meal, I freaked out because I needed to buy two candles that are only used during Sabbath. After a few moments of panic and "I got this all wrong" I figured the point of Sabbath was to rest, not freak out. Right? Ok, moving on. I'll buy those this coming week. But the ones I found in the house sufficed for the night.

After dinner, we played. We gave Bella a bath. We put her down to bed. We read. And we were asleep by 8:30. Hmm, the YHWY must have breathed rest into us early!

Sunday came. We woke up to a clean house and absolutely nothing to do. I lit the two candles again to remember and observe. We got ready for church, drove to Milano, had a wonderful service, and came home. Mike's sermon was about spending time "with" the Father allows us to know the "for" of the Father. The "for" (service, ambition, etc) flows out of the "with". It was a great reminder to myself to simply be "with". We will probably find out in the next month if and where I got into the PhD programs I applied to. So the waiting to see the "for" has been hard. The reminder to be "with" for now was centering. Again, YHWY breathed. And I did too.

After lunch, Bella napped for not long at all! Oh well. We got up with her and played for a little bit. Mike feel asleep so Bella and I went into the study to play with blocks and color. I also checked my emails, read some blogs, and didn't do anything hurried. I had some music going and ended up having a neat time of reading the bible and prayer. Then we played some more and Mike joined us after his nap. This time was really relaxing and precious and a time of "with". I wasn't hurried at all and could actually write a letter to a friend without hurrying to put a stamp on it and run out the door. (Anyone else know what i'm talking about here? Sometimes in our "good things we do", we still stress out? No? I'm the only one? Oh well.)

We finished a football game and read books and played some more with Bella. So far so good. Sabbath was breathing YHWY.

Then, 4:00 hit and my mind started racing with a list. I was actually thinking that I could hit the ground running at 6pm and get everything done before tomorrow.
1. Take check to bank.
2. Get face wash at Macy's.
3. Remember to put the clothes in the dryer.
4. Take back item to Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Whoa, detour! "Hey Mike, do you think it's ok to do that on the Sabbath?" He chuckled a little...was that an answer? Oh well. I rationalized in my mind that shopping is relaxing to me. And I wouldn't worry about my list if I actually was able to check off those items. (yes, feel free to laugh. I am now that i'm looking back at it.) I was just restless. So I paced a little and tried to find something to do. So I took a bath. And if you know me, you know I don't like taking baths because I can't do anything. But I knew it would probably help. The first 10 minutes I was still in "list-multi-tasking" mode. I read but it was hurried and I was still thinking. But after a minute my body finally relaxed again. I brought the two candles in and thought of "remembering and observing". YHWY breathed and so did I.
(As i'm writing this, Mike came in and said "Wow, that sabbath thing worked". Ha! He totally saw my restlessness-freak-out moment before I took the bath.)

Perhaps the breathing deeply of YHWY brings us back to the depths of who we are, who we were made to be. I was reminded of the things that stirred my heart at the end of the day. Maybe it was because I was ready the new book by Paul Farmer. Perhaps it was also because I was forced to stop. And maybe I would finally hear my heart, His Heart. YHWH breathed. And so did I.

I do not pretend to know what Sabbath really is. Barbara Brown Taylor, a professor and pastor, says that it took her 7 years to "kindof get it". I'm also not pretending I know what the "dos" and "do-nots" of Sabbath are yet.

At the end of the day, the sun is about to go down. And I don't dread the busyness of the week (which I usually do after coming home from a great vacation - you know, when you need a vacation from your vacation). As Barbara Brown Taylor wrote, "To remember the Sabbath is to remember what it means to be made in God's image and, when the Sabbath ends, to join God in the holy work of mending the world". The next six days are my contribution to mend the world. I'm almost hesitant to blow out the Sabbath candles. But I am very thankful for the past 25 hours.

To remember and observe the Sabbath. For me, it's been

A softening

A stopping

A stirring

A stilling

A breathing


1 comment:

Gaidusek Family said...

Thank you for sharing your wonderful experience. You have inspired me!
April Gaidusek