Photo of Shem-shem Pablo
By Catia Michelle
As a pastor, I think a lot about Faith and also about how to care for myself in a job that is both amazingly rewarding but also, at times, profoundly draining both physically and emotionally. Two weeks ago I wrote about the basics of Self-Care (Self-Care 101) and how I began thinking more seriously about caring for myself and practicing good Self-Care on a daily basis. But how does this relate to Faith and Spirituality?
At the heart of Spirituality is the idea of the Sacred. In my Christian tradition I understand each human and the environment to be Sacred because we are created by a loving God. It’s easy sometimes for me to look around at name everyone else in my world Sacred, Loved, Blessed and Beautiful and forget that I, too, am all of those things. Self-Care helps me to celebrate my own Sacredness and worth before God. And a reality of practicing Self-Care is that it takes time. If we are going to practice Self-Care we have to set aside intentional, focused time to do so. Interestingly, it has also been my Faith tradition that has helped me the most in learning to do this:
Sabbath is a concept that originated with the Israelite people thousands and thousands of years ago. It was codified and written down, after passing through oral tradition, probably sometime shortly after the Jewish captivity in Babylon ended and the Israelites got serious about writing down their stories and laws. In the simplest, Biblical sense Sabbath is a day of rest practiced in imitation of God, who is said to have rested on the seventh day after creating the world.
Jewish law forbids nearly any kind of work from sundown on Friday through Saturday. It also asks that people stay close to home, eschew much technology and is traditionally celebrated with long, ritual-filled family meals, visiting with close friends and neighbors, drawn out theological discussion and quiet books and games. I have always been intrigued by the concept of Sabbath and Sabbath keeping. As a Christian we normally practice Sabbath on Sunday and don’t traditionally keep Jewish Sabbath law (such as staying close to home), but I think there are pieces of the Sabbath tradition in Judaism and in Christianity that can be revolutionary for our own Self-Care and sense of the Sacred in our lives.
My question: What does Sabbath do for us? How does it help us maintain and deepen our Spiritual lives and practice good Self-Care?
Time: Interestingly, today people think they work far more than their counterparts in the 50’s or 60’s. If you ask the average person if they feel stressed, overworked and busy….well, just go ask your neighbor and I bet you will hear a resounding Yes!
It’s interesting, however, that in scientific studies when people have been asked how much they work and how much time they have for leisure, people today over-report how much time they work and always express that they wish they had more time for leisure. When asked to keep a time-diary of every activity in a day, the reality of how people spend their time doesn’t match up to what they report: people aren’t working any more than we used to and have plenty of time for leisure.
So why do we FEEL so stressed?
I wonder if the amount of leisure time we spend on media (TV, Ipods, Computer, Netflix, Instant Messaging, Facebook….) takes up much of our leisure time but doesn’t give us the feeling of rest and fullness of life that other leisure activities do (like visiting with friends, writing hand-written letters, long walks outdoors, family-cooked meals and staying at the table chatting for hours with a glass of wine). I also believe we live in a culture that values business so much that we are all swept up in a mindset that we have to be busy to be worthwhile people. I recognize that their are real strains on our time, and many of us have to work odd hours and many jobs just to make ends meat.
And this is where Sabbath comes in.
Sabbath asks that we TRUST that the time we have is ENOUGH. To practice Sabbath, to set aside a day of the week to not work asks us to believe that there is plenty of time for the things that matter to us and plenty of time for work. It also asks us to trust that if we don’t get everything done….it isn’t the end of the world! We are still valuable, wonderful people created in the image of God! This is a fundamental attitude shift. Our culture relies on the mantra: there is never enough time so run, run, run! Sabbath’s mantra: there is plenty of time for the things that matter most in life.
Faith: I believe that God had a real purpose in modeling Sabbath for us and later asking us to be people who keep Sabbath. It’s not about rules and regulations. Sabbath, as Jesus points out later, isn’t something God designed so that we could please God…it’s something God designed for us. God perhaps foresaw that we would become a people obsessed with productivity, technology, fast-food and drive-thrus. And Sabbath is the anti-dote. In our Faith life and our Spirituality, trust is an important thing! Learning to trust God and be comfortable with vulnerability is a life long process. And I believe Sabbath is one tool in helping us do that.
Sabbath gives us time and space for wonder.
Sabbath lets us rest and honor the bodies God gave us.
Sabbath opens us up to appreciated the deep human relationships God created.
Sabbath gives us time to be in God’s creation, and to experience the beauty and transcendence in our world.
…..I could go on and on and on :-)
Editor’s Note: Catia is a pastor, book lover, Mennonite, community gardener, tea drinker and writer. She is delighted to be contributing to AMS Daily! She blogs regularly at http://joyfortoday2012.wordpress.com. Have questions or great ideas for Self Care? She’d love to hear from you!