I tend to work too hard. I’m very bad at slowing down and resting, so as part of my spiritual reading for the year, Sabbath by Wayne Muller seemed like a natural choice.
Muller is Christian himself, but draws from many traditions for this book–with obviously a lot from Judaism. He offers many examples of specific Sabbath practices, and also explores the theology, history and intention of Sabbath as a day of rest. I think the biggest message for me was about viewing Sabbath as a joyful thing. So often it’s regarded as a burdensome, legalistic rule against doing anything (the Pharisees of the New Testament come to mind) but Muller offers a very different view–one equally grounded in tradition.
The overall theme is around rest and renewal, taking time for personal reflections and also for relationships. The traditional Sabbath is one day in the week, but Muller also writes about taking Sabbath hours, or even just moments–as in the comments on “guerilla compassion,” silently blessing people around us as we go through our day, creating little moments of peace and intention.
Muller writes a good deal also about why we don’t rest. Taking time to rest and enjoy seems so obvious and unarguably good, and yet it’s so easy to get caught up in obligations. We have to feel useful, we feel we’re needed by someone else, we have to earn money to buy the thing that’s supposed to make us happy (just look at pretty much any commercial…they’re really selling happiness). Muller makes a compelling argument that rest and Sabbath time are a necessity, that we can’t serve or be useful if we don’t renew ourselves–and that all those products are not really the answer either.
I already believed a lot of what Muller is affirming–but the message was still helpful to hear. I believe in resting, but struggle with too many commitments and too much that needs to be done. It may be all well and good for Mary to sit at Jesus’ feet, but Jesus showed up with twelve guys so of course Martha feels she has a lot to do to get supper on the table for all of them! That’s the kind of mindset I have… But I have managed to notice that Jesus didn’t actually tell Martha not to get supper ready; he said not to be anxious and troubled. Muller (and I’m sure many others) suggest that it’s not about not doing, it’s about also taking time to rest and be. In a world that keeps moving faster, it’s good advice to hear.
I suspect Sabbath will resonate most with people from a Jewish or Christian background, but the fundamental message of taking time to rest is a good one for any tradition. I found it helpful–and quite restful to read too!
Author’s Site: http://www.waynemuller.com/
Buy it here: Sabbath