The word is not usually followed by exclamation points, but I feel like hollering right now for a TIME OUT. And that’s what a Sabbath is supposed to be - a time out of time to recollect oneself. The ancient Jews came up with the idea thousands of years ago to set aside one day out of seven to "rest." Which leads me to think they must have needed some legislation on the matter, that it wasn’t in their nature to declare enough is enough without a law to enforce it.
We here in the U.S. in the 21st century share this weakness (although not everyone would call it that). I had a telling conversation a few years ago with a father of two little girls who had just lost a job in the finance industry. The reason? With two small children, he wanted to work 40 – 50 hours each week. But he said if you aren’t willing to work 60, another younger guy with the same credentials and without a family is – and was in this case.
Contrast that to the average French worker, now being encouraged by the government to work 40 hours (instead of the more accepted 35). The French attitude is that too much work is bad for person – and bad for everyone else too. In the French mind, working 60 hours a week would put a fellow citizen out of work. Thirty five hours is enough.
Enough? The little sergeant inside my head wants me to think nothing I do is enough. It makes no difference to him whether it’s vegetables growing in the garden or money market certificates in the bank; there ought to be more and I should be doing it better. There’s not enough time in the day, and there is no time to lose.
This is why I find the idea of Sabbath so compelling; it’s a counter-voice to my inner-fascist. “Thou shalt rest” one day in seven. Thou shalt let all the busy-ness go and just be. Thou shalt tell the little sergeant to pipeth down. What would I do on a real Sabbath? I would read the newspaper before I get out of bed. I would go to the garden but play bocce instead of weed. And at night I would sit on the front stoop and watch people go by and maybe the moon rise. I would write a list of at least ten things I am grateful for this week. Who knows what else I would do if I were free in this way?
We are free. What would you do? Let’s just do it! Fire the little sergeant. Recognize that the world goes on even if you take a day off.
A new manifesto for living well: Hold close to your heart and keep in mind the things that matter to you - your family, your neighbor, the environment, the common good - whatever those things are for you. Take steps each day to make life better someday for your grandchildren. And one day each week, sit back and say to yourself “it is good.” It is enough.
No need to holler.