“I am YHWH who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage." - Exodus 20:2 (Inclusive Bible) -
Dear siblings in Christ,
As I write this, I am hurtling through space 33,000 feet in the air. A young woman sits on my left, also typing away on her computer; a young man sits on my right, dozing. Just before my flight, I was texting with a friend who asked me: “Any plans for your in-flight entertainment?” My response: “… work.”
I’m curious. First, let me take off my pastor hat so you can consider me not as “Pastor” but as a human like you who - maybe like you - works for a living. OK, now let me ask: what are your initial thoughts on hearing about my in-flight plans? Are you thinking: “That’s a great use of your time!” or “Well sure, that’s what I usually do.” Or are you thinking: “I usually just watch a movie or read a book and relax” or “I never work on planes; that’s the only place where I feel like I don’t have to do it.” (Or maybe you really don’t care what I do or don’t do with my time on a plane. That’s perfectly fine too!)
But I do find it a bit ironic that I’m writing this pastoral reflection after just reading a chapter from “Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now” - as I keep plugging away, 33,000 feet in the air.
To provide context: I faced some tough days this past week - and my friend knows that. He and I both know I’m in need of some Sabbath right now, which is why he asked if (or assumed) I would take time for that on the plane. Dear ones, I don’t share this with you in search of pity, concern or even support (rest assured: I’m getting that), but simply to be honest and vulnerable in hopes of providing a space where you might find resonance with your own story. I wonder if you can relate to the challenges of balancing work and Sabbath, responsibilities to others and practicing self-care, taking on the pressures of society and leaning into the grace of God.
We are now one week into Lent, one week into the Lenten series “Good Enough” and one week into the book studies for “Good Enough” and “Sabbath as Resistance” (If you haven’t started but want to take part, it’s not too late!). And, I don’t know about you, but I’ve been saying things like “Oh, I needed to see/hear/read that” - like, a lot already.
Just now, I read Walter Brueggemann’s chapter on “Resistance to Anxiety” where he talks about a culture under Pharaoh’s rule versus a culture under God’s rule. He reminds readers that Sabbath is literally commanded by God, and it’s the lack of disciplined rest that results in an anxiety-driven life for Pharaoh himself and the people he enslaved. God, however, models Sabbath for us by resting after six hard days of work with God’s whole ‘creating-the-heavens-and-the-earth’ project; and God takes time to affirm God’s hard work (God said, “It was good!”).
We live in an anxiety-inducing world, and a culture in the United States that typically applauds hard work, even to the point of exhaustion (much like the world of Pharaoh). But, brothers and sisters, I hope we can better model God’s behavior of Sabbath-keeping and affirmation for each other and the work we do. I hope we can better support ourselves, our neighbors and one another by honestly naming what’s hard or gives us anxiety and taking time to rest. I hope we get better at affirming ourselves and others with “It is good!” rather than “It could have been better.”
At this point, that effort demands “resistance” because it’s counter-cultural, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Take things one day at a time (or, to steal a line from Kate Bowler’s “Good Enough”: “One jarful at a time.”). God is with you in your work and God is with you in your rest. And remember, when God made you and me, God said: “It is VERY good.”
With Lenten blessings,
P.S. I always love hearing your thoughts or reflections. Please feel free to email me.
How is your current practice of Sabbath-keeping?
What is challenging or anxiety-producing in your life today that you want to share?
What else strikes you from this reflection?