This article originally appeared on Shalem Institute’s Living Contemplatively blog.
I didn’t realize it at first, but I was given a gift this evening.
My fiancé was working late, my son’s lacrosse game was cancelled, and the project I thought I had to do evaporated.
Distant thunder called me out to the porch. Dramatic summer storms are so beautiful, exciting, and thrilling.
I sat down to enjoy the show, but found myself mesmerized by the steady rain falling in the woods. It lulled me into awareness. Breathing slowed, muscles relaxed. Then the exhale of gratitude for this moment, for these extended moments, and the slipping into a sense of the Holy.
Then, my breath caught and I realized I’m holding back. What is that about, I wonder? Oh, the to-do list perhaps or the fear that I’m going to go too deep. I’m aware that there are so many things I’d like to do in this quiet, this pause. How laughable! I’m about to fill my quiet time. “So, Holy Spirit, could you hurry up and show me the epiphany of some sort because I don’t get much time to read and I need to finish that book on spiritual direction.”
I shake my head at myself. There are so few moments of downtime. Daily meditation and gratitude time are not chunks of Sabbath. I tend to want to shoehorn in lots of spiritual activities!
Perhaps the call I’m realizing this evening is to schedule in larger chunks of rest time and to prepare for it so there isn’t that panic to get lots of spiritual stuff done duringthat time.
Instead of seeing Sabbath time as a period to do spiritual activities, perhaps it’s a time to just enjoy God. If during that time there’s a leading to do something contemplative, that may be okay, but only if it’s being done out of love and not a sense of urgency or accomplishment.
You may have gotten this long ago, but I am just realizing this means I need to prepare for this true time off. I believe it means I need to try to move some other things out in order to let in the spiritual relishing.
I see I am wrestling with bigger issues here, ones regarding how to structure life, my whole life. I now understand why my breath caught. What’s being pondered here is how to really live my life. What can I get rid of so Sabbath time can be without structure and the deep desire to do 17 things at once?
Sabbath is a time for rest, not just other kinds of recreation.
The rain continues to pour down hard enough to stop all outside activities. A forced rest of sorts, at least from what we’d do outdoors. And I realize there is an aspect of respect at play here too.
I have a healthy respect for lots of things I love: the ocean and fire to name a couple. And with these things I know there are boundaries, things I need to do in order to enjoy them. The same is true for Sabbath. I need to have a healthy respect for it and do certain things in order to really enjoy that sacred time. I need to not cram it full of to-dos, even if they are spiritual. I need to give myself enough other holy pockets to pursue those other activities. I need to rework my schedule to make sure I block out actual Sabbath chunks and not just an hour here or there.
And then, I need to just relish God during Sabbath and rest in that enjoyment. It seems a little like a tall order now, but I realize I’ve been giving it the short shrift and getting ripped off by my own actions (or inactions). One step at a time. I can take the baby steps of rearranging some time weekly to pursue my other interests and work on the preparation. This will be a work in progress, but then again, so am I!
By giving the preparation and respect it needs, I will be getting so much more out of Sabbath time. And, the end result will be delicious!
Stephanie Gretchen Burgevin is a writer and retreat leader. She is an associate faculty member of Shalem Institute and a graduate of their Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program and leads spiritual and secular programs. You can see more of her writing at blessedjourneyblog.com.