I’ve been selling people on this idea of Sabbath, lately, having just experienced yet another day of stoppage from the rat race. Last night, a friend of mine asked me what I was did on Sabbath, what the experience looked like. Truth to tell, I’m just feeling my way along based on a couple of biblical ideas, but so far, at least from a re-creative point of view, I seem to be on the right track.
The first thing is to stop. It’s hard to explain just how hard this has been over the years. My mind has been a churn machine, turning over endless ideas about God, human beings, epistemology, family,story, story-writing techniques, moral dilemmas, sex, schedules, ought-to’s and shouldn’ts, plans and dreams…the list of the churned goes on and on. Perhaps that’s what thought-life is, churning. But when pleasure reading become just another exercise in analysis, when music fails to delight, when films and plays become temptations in despair because I didn’t write it or make it or produce anything near that quality, churning has a much different quality than contemplation. Chasing the ever-elusive gold ring of (fill-in-the-blank here, whatever you’re chasing) becomes a job wherein there is literally no time to lose, every minute slipping by a move closer to the moment when no more moments are coming, all chances on this side of the curtain lost.
So stop. Just stop. For three Saturdays in a row, I have stopped. Maybe things will change over time (I’m sure they will), but just now it is a dip in a cool, cool pond on an over-one-hundred degree day. It is a black dust storm miraculously vanishing to reveal a crystal green valley and shimmering morning sky. It is a churning machine taken apart and put to quiet sleep. It is silence, and sight, and hearing. It is–just as it should be, as those well-practiced in Sabbath put it–rest.
On Saturday, probably the most memorable piece of the day was as I contemplated what God did on His Sabbath. Here I’m fudging a bit, inventing, or at least reading what’s implied, but I imagine God looking over his creation, satisfied, taking delight in what He had made, not in a prideful manner, but in a manner that simply takes in that which is good and calls it that, and lets that delight resonate in His Being, His Being being that which allows for and originates delight in the first place.
So I rested from all that I had done, and looked back and took delight in all that I had made. That sounds odd–slightly ridiculous, actually–but what an exerise. Just walking quietly through the years, looking at that single desire of my heart, to make stuff. The silly poems of junior high, the first songs I wrote in high school, the shows from the years at Abilene Christian University and a little summer thing we called Summerstage, the roles I played as a fledgling actor, the years of directing at UT Austin (my thesis show, The Shoemaker’s Holiday, an absolute joy to watch and direct, and the craziness of the mad rehearsal techniques I employed trying to get actors to celebrate the sheer joy of life), the fear and trembling I took to the Old Globe and the Seattle Rep, then the years of wandering, writing for hours in journals trying to grasp why the faith I’d been raised in was under siege, then the work at ACU again, this time as a teacher and critic, trying to help remake a program into a place that would send thoughtful Christian creatives (as Dick Staub would say) into the world of theatre. Then back to Seattle and all that’s happened since–the plays, the book, the roles at Taproot, the teaching, the blogging, the projects underway even now, the relationship with Willow Creek, the great blessing of so many friends I’ve sat with over coffee talking about the life with God that stirs me, the two glorious surprises that are my children and their ongoing work as makers of beautiful stuff. The love Anjie and I share.
Don’t misunderstand–I’m not taking full credit here, as if I am by-fiat creator of these things. But as God’s hand moved and made the world, God has given us all the great gift of touching the world, of making, choosing, creating, and impacting. There is delight in the “wake” (Dr. Henry Cloud) of my attempts at making beauty of various kinds, and it seems worthwhile to stop and remember that, to touch that, to let that sink in to a place where it can provide balance to the oft-churning thought that I am not nearly as successful as I should have been and should be, and that the beauty I so long for is so missing in the work done thus far.
And what does that contemplation leave me with? Thankfulness. Sheer delight not in my own work or my own anything, except my own God. The God that has been in every moment of every day, and Who will complete the work in me that He’s begun. Easier breathing, greater confidence in Him to do what He’s going to do, a clearer mind with which to make more.
Now it’s Monday morning, work about to commence. Somehow, the noise of former churning is calmer, more quiet. Something tells me Beauty may be easier to find, to hear, to chase after.
2 Replies to “Sabbath Practice”
I keep reading your blog and being amazed that so many things that you are posting are right in line with things I am reading/thinking about as a I blog my way through “Zen…”. Yesterday’s chapter dealt with the idea of “stuckness” and how you have to get away to get unstuck and find your way back to quality. The idea led me to a place in my “Belief House” (a cute little metaphysical residence I’ve been outlining) I like to call Peace. Peace is the balcony where I can go when I need to rise above the noise and conflict and hevel. It gives me perspective. I like it because it reminds me that I don’t have to end all of the conflict to have Peace. I just have to go back to the place where God is my central pillar and he helps me rise above and see beyond the immediate trouble. When I come back out, I’m ready and I’m not alone.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD
The Shema is recited in the morning and evening, the three passages of Deuteronomy 6:4-9, on rising to the new day one recited, or pledges, standing, vertical, and in the evening, upon placing oneself on the horizontal, at the end of day, before departing the wakeful world, one’s last words are again “… Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. …”
The vertical and the horizontal, the cross of life, and we suddenly find it is I?