In his excellent little book, Sabbath, Wayne Muller talks about the ways people can find “rest, renewal, and delight” in our daily lives. He presents a concept of sabbath that even the very churchy have lost sight of — a pause, a rest that is more mindful than watching a movie or taking a nap.
Have you noticed that we work seven days a week? Our jobs take up the week days, and we use the weekends to catch up on home things. The headlong rush to “do” something, to make every minute count, sucks the vitality right out of our souls. I cannot say it better than Muller does:
Because we do not rest, we lose our way. We miss the compass points that would show us where to go; we bypass the nourishment that would give us succor. We miss the quiet that would give us wisdom. We miss the joy and love born of effortless delight. (1)
Thomas Merton combined a very active life outside his monastery with a deeply contemplative live within it. Merton’s journals are excellent Sabbath reading, because he understands both the pause and the need for it. His life’s work of nonviolence and reconciliation happened because he knew when to shut up and go back to his hermitage for a while. He said, in May of 1965, if the time is important:
One lovely dawn after another. Such peace! Meditation with fireflies, mist in the valley, last quarter of the moon, distant owls — gradual inner awakening and centering in peace and harmony of love and gratitude. Yesterday I wrote to the man at McGill University who thought all contemplation was a manifestation of narcissistic regression! That is just what it is not. A complete awakening of identity and of rapport! It implies an awareness and acceptance of one’s place in the whole, first the whole of creation, then the whole plan of Redemption — to find oneself in the great mystery of fulfillment, which is the Mystery of Christ. Consonantia and not confusio: Harmony and not confusion (The Intimate Merton, 241).
Neither Muller nor Merton, I am just sitting here with a book about color open on my lap, thinking about endings and beginnings and the well-placed pause. Victor Wooten once wrote about how the pauses in music are more important than the notes. A pause creates space for the notes to be notes in. A Sabbath creates space for people to be people in — breathing, existing, taking delight in the present moment of the world.
I gave up New Year’s resolutions a long time ago, since resolutions always require discipline, and nobody can be disciplined and cold at the same time. But it occurs to me that August isn’t a bad time, here on that edge between ending and beginning. Therefore, be it resolved that, between weddings and writing and American literature, I will make Sabbath space in my life this fall.
And if mint tea is thrown in, well, perfection!