Lately, I’ve been need a lot of sleep – even more than usual. I’ve had trouble waking up in the morning and facing the day. I’ve longed for the day’s end when I can return home and regroup. They say that this is a common reaction to grief and loss…and I believe that. I was blessed with a 24-hour silent retreat a few weeks ago, and realized how starved I’ve been for quiet, for Sabbath rest.
This week we hear the Ten Commandments – one of the most often cited, and lease observed, parts of the Bible. In our church they’ve been called “The Ten Episcopal Suggestions.” Americans generally don’t like to be told what to do, or not to do, yet that’s what these commands do. Specifically, they tell us how to order our relationships – the first 4 are about our relationship with God and the holy; the last 6 are about our relationships with other human beings.
We can’t think about all of them at once, so I’d like to focus on one, the fourth: “Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.” The commandment goes on for several lines…we might think it’s pretty important!
But frankly, this commandment is generally ignored by most Christians in our time: we neither remember the Sabbath day, nor keep it holy. We have lost the art of rest, of stillness, of any sort of contemplation. We have forgotten how to stop.
I’ve been enjoying the daily videos from the monks at the Society of St. John the Evangelist, www.SSJE.org/time , this Lent. They make me squirm. They gently challenge my way of life, and my rationalizations. It’s good for me. The series is about our relationship with Time – a relationship that for many of us is disordered. The first step the brothers suggest is to stop: we must simply stop. They give us a few ideas and questions to try:
Stop 1: Sit in total stillness for five minutes today. How does it feel?
Stop 2: Where is your invitation to stop during the day?
Stop 3: What taskmasters do you need to be liberated from to reclaim your dignity?
Stop 4: How do you picture a day spent “being” – as opposed to “doing”?
Stop 5: Where are you drawn when you follow your heart?
Stop 6: Are you content right now?
Stop 7: Schedule a day of complete rest: What does it help you realize about your life and heart?
Well now, do you feel completely overwhelmed? Inadequate? Join the club. We are not good at this. Stopping is foreign to our American DNA. Do we dare try it? JBM