Sabbatical

I just finished “Sabbath as Resistance,” an excellent book by Walter Brueggemann. It was written a few years ago but is as timely as today’s headlines in our consumer driven, workaholic world. Brueggemann closes the book with reflections on Psalm 73, and I want to quote what he has to say about verse 23 of that Psalm: “Nevertheless I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.”

Brueggemann’s commentary on that verse goes like this: “This is no casual hand-holding. This is a life-or-death grip that does not let go. ‘No-Sabbath’ existence imagines getting through on our own, surrounded by commodities to accumulate and before which to bow down. But a commodity cannot hold one’s hand. Only late does the psalmist come to know otherwise. Only late may we come to know, but likely not without Sabbath rest, rooted in God’s own restfulness and extended to our neighbors who also must rest. We, with our hurts, fears and exhaustion, are left restless until then.” (Emphasis added)

Hurt, fearful and exhausted – describes me to a tee as the bitter conflicts over church and national politics have me so tied up in knots I feel like a pressure cooker about to blow a gasket. Yes, I badly need a sabbatical. Not because I don’t care about the fate of the world, but because I care too much. Therefore at the suggestion of my dear wife who has to live with my depression and anger I am hereby vowing to do the following for at least a week and perhaps longer. This may be my jump starting Lent 17 days early–because when we find ourselves in the wilderness can’t always be neatly scheduled on the calendar.
For the next 7 days:

1) I will not begin my day by reading or listening to the morning news. (Doing so has been my morning ritual for all of my adult life. My dad was a newspaper man. I delivered a morning newspaper as a kid. Newspapers have been a part of my life forever; so this will not be easy.)

2) Instead I will begin my day with spiritual and physical exercise of some kind, after my first cup of coffee of course.

3) I will temporarily snooze my most ardent Facebook friends on either side of the great American political divide, refrain from posting or writing any political words, memes or blogs; and stop listening to political news and talk radio in my car.

I thank you in advance for your prayers as I begin this sabbatical. Pray that I can let go of trying to control my life so God can, and feel free to help hold me accountable in any way you like—even if I act like I don’t want you to.

In the name of the one who always has me by the hand, even when I squirm and try to pull away like an indignant two-year-old, Amen.

3 thoughts on “Sabbatical

  1. I have read several Brueg books, but not that one. And though I find a lot of his work challenging and refreshing, the one that stands out as most meaningful to me personally was PEACE. (It originally was published under a different title (I even had a copy of it in that title too briefly), but when out of print and came back some time later as PEACE.) It also is very dated at this point in many respects, yet timeless enough to still be powerful.

    Brueg is a generation ahead of me, so his personal experiences described there fall in line with those my parents and grandparents, but I was mature enough to see the point.

    The whole book is worthwhile, but the chapter on Ordering and Eating, though it did not exhaust all thoughts by any stretch, it did absolutely blow the doors of my biblical imagination off it’s hinges. One of the most potent things he does is pair the story of Joseph and his brothers in Egypt eating at separate tables with a look at Luke 14 and the party for the poor, and in between he talks about life during segregation growing up in Georgia. He talks about various café experiences and the rules set there by people in charge, and then one of the most impactful lines, which I am sure I am not quoting exactly… IT IS NO COINCIDENCE THAT THE AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT CAME TO A HEAD AT THE LUNCH COUNTER.

    I have been partaking Eucharist with a whole OTHER mindset ever since reading that book.

    Not your subject, I know, but related in round about ways to be sure.

    God bless you in your sabbatical. It is necessary.

  2. You are an inspiration, Steve, not only because you listened to your bride haha, but also because you surrendered to what God has probably been whispering in your ear for awhile.

    This morning I was reading Mitch Albom’s book Finding Chika (a little girl, an earthquake and the making of a family). It’s a light read and can be done in a day without any interruptions. I had Selah music playing in the background. It set the tone for my whole day, no computer, no tv, no radio. Yes, that other person living in this house, likes to fill me in on the book he is reading and I have to stop and pretend that I’m listening.
    Maybe a mission trip is what God has in store for you. Those trips always bring me back to what is really important. When I am weak, He is strong.
    Debbie

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