There are many parts of Thompson’s chapter 5 that resonate for me, but the part that hit closest to home was the title of one of the books quoted in the chapter: When I Relax I Feel Guilty.
Of course, “relax” will look different for each of us. For me, so-busy-I-can’t-see-straight looks pretty much the same as daydreaming (note to self: busy or not, get up and move more). Sometimes “busy” is slightly easier to identify, even for me – it could be a meeting, a phone conversation, keyboard clicks, a worship gathering or a sprint (ok, waddle) down the halls of a hospital.
Then again, there’s the busy version of relaxed: maybe the computer screen has a recipe on it, maybe the sewing machine is in front of me, maybe knitting or embroidery is in my hands, maybe earbuds are serving up Jane Austen, maybe Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley are cuddled nearby (they’re dachshunds, btw).
>Pause and consider: What does busy look like for you? What about relaxed?
I think I started this blog thing by saying that the novel coronavirus had laid Sabbath opportunities at our feet. For the first couple of weeks, though, NRPC staff were busier than ever as we tried to adapt Worship · Grow · Serve for a digital platform. Those early days of covid-19 – they feel longer ago than they really are! – were practically exciting as we reinvented the way we do church at NRPC.
Last week and, before that, Holy Week, were entirely different for me. We’d created a new groove – a different rhythm, a revised schedule – and by the time Holy Week rolled around, the ‘new’ of our stay-at-home orders had worn off.
It was a good shift for most of Holy Week. That week between Palm Sunday and Easter is the most reflective week of the church year and it was good to have some slow time to remember, think, pray and anticipate.
But last week was hard. There were not burning needs in our congregation (thanks be to God!), just a few check-ins, some reading to do, a little writing, too. I tried to slow down a bit and relax a little.
You’d think it would be heavenly chill time, but I was out of sorts and edgy. In short, I realized just how much I depend on my work to give me a sense of meaning/purpose/value/worth. And at the same time, I felt like a slacker for not working at full tilt.
Enter “When I relax I feel guilty.”
>Pause and consider: What do you experience when you slow down, stop to smell the roses, relax, or otherwise practice Sabbath?
Thompson continues that “to rest in God is implicitly to critique a culture of constant production; to trust in God is to undermine a culture obsessed by control; even to enjoy God is to play the fool in a culture that often takes itself too seriously.” (p. 73) Which makes me think it should be more guilt-inducing to forgo Sabbath than to practice it!
If Sabbath is a gift that in many ways proclaims the gospel, perhaps we ought to be as fastidious about observing Sabbath law as we are about the honesty/integrity/fidelity parts of the ten commandments.
>Pause and consider: When have you been able to practice ceasing in order to rest in grace?
Maybe stay-at-home orders have made your work/home/personal life more hectic, or maybe this pandemic has created a little ease in your schedule. If the former, maybe squeezing in a bit of Sabbath will give you renewed energy; and if the latter, maybe dedicating some of that newly discovered spare time to God will give new meaning to your busy times. Whatever motivation it takes for you, work in some Sabbath and see what you learn!
>Pause and consider: How might you practice Sabbath if not for an entire day, at least in moments of rest, trust and joy?
Thompson, Marjorie, Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life (New Rev edition). Westminster John Knox Press, 2014