A few months ago I wrote about traditions, how they can be hard to form and to keep, how they interfere with convenience and normalcy, and how they’re absolutely essential. I mostly meant traditions around holidays, but I’ve been seeing the need for traditions around other things lately.
I need a tradition around sabbath, for one.
After I returned from my first trip to Israel (I’m sorry I can’t stop talking/writing about it), I had a renewed respect for the beauty and necessity of the sabbath. Our family very easily falls into the variable routines of errands, projects, and binge-watching Netflix throughout the weekend without taking the care to cultivate a sense of indispensability toward true and meaningful rest, the kind of rest that’s so much more than time not beholden to the job that pays the bills. What I saw in Israel was that rest takes work. I saw the table set with care and precision, guests welcomed with hospitality and joy, and liturgy kept with faithfulness, and I recognized the considerable intentionality behind every nuance.
They were resting on purpose.
Karen and I began trying to reclaim our sabbath. We picked a day (Sundays seemed to work best for us) and developed some ideas. We would not work on any projects around the house or run any errands on Sundays, and at the end of the day our whole family would share a special kind of meal, keeping the kids up a little later and making the time count. None of these ideas became hard and fast rules, and that may be why we enjoyed our new routine for two glorious weeks before it dissolved away.
But God kept whispering, and my resolve has returned.
I was on a plane the other day, and there wasn’t a plug for any of my electronics, all of which were down to their last 5 percent. I was belted in for a few hours with no distractions except SkyMall. I had to sit still, something which Leonard Bernstein would tell me is not a bad idea now and then:
Stillness is our most intense mode of action. It is in our moments of deep quiet that is born every idea, emotion, and drive which we eventually honor with the name of action. We reach highest in meditation, and farthest in prayer. In stillness every human being is great.
In all that stillness I got to thinking about what I would want a perfect Sabbath to look like. Instead of starting with particulars I started with the feelings, the themes, the values that I hoped would characterize the day: Laughter. Fun. Peace. Holy space. Play. Listening. Noticing. Wondering. Decreased speed. Increased attention. These were a few of my words.
Then I started adding the things: Breakfasts of omelettes, coffee or tea, and a little something sweet. Reading. Adventures and explorations. Long bouts of daydreaming. Writing. Music and quiet. Lunch in the sunshine. Naps. Games. Prayer. Picking out produce. Meal-making. Wine. Dinner by candlelight. Campfires. Ignored bedtimes. And, of course, dance parties; our kids love dance parties. These things became a menu of sorts, a choose-your-own-rest of all those things I wish I’d done every time I click off the TV at the end of an evening. These are things that feed my soul and feed a sense of connectedness with the people who are my tribe.
With these themes and things in mind we’ve begun endeavoring to reinvigorate the sabbath around here. God knows we need it.