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Sabbath rest and simple life

October 12th, 2003 · No Comments

Today I got up, looking forward to a quiet day just at home. I’ve finally conquered much of my big to-do list at the moment, and it is a joy to have a day to enjoy. Sure I’ve got meals to make, diapers to change, even clothes to iron for Ted tomorrow. With a family of five, daily life is busy; there’s no doubt about that. But it is so rare that I let myself rest. It is rare for us as a family to have “nothing” to do in a day, no place to go, nothing requiring our attention. Simplicity seems so elusive and I often get caught up late at night trying to catch up on life and lists.

So today is a simple Sunday. Sunday in the Christian tradition has become the day of rest, the Sabbath day. On the seventh day God rested. I confess that I have not been doing what God did Himself. I run myself ragged and think that I please God by doing all these things for Him. Even Sundays themselves have become exhausting for us; all days the same with work, lists and guilt for what doesn’t get done.

Today is a day to let the kids play with Legos on the living room carpet. A day to let the house get a little less tidy, crumbs on the kitchen floor and bits of papers on the carpet. A day to read the newspaper, all the way through, instead of skimming headlines while gulping down granola.

And as I read the paper. I saw this article in the Seattle Times Is it any wonder Americans want their time back? I quote below:

A 1999 report by the Surface Transportation Policy Project said that mothers with school-age children average more than five car trips a day. We give first-graders day schedulers to keep up with piano, French, soccer and tae kwon do lessons. Even when we are home, we’re often too fried to do anything but watch TV. Or we’ve taken work home because we spent our workday in meetings, committees or answering e-mail, with no concentrated time to think….

“How did the most powerful country in the world lose control of its time?”

I did not know that the Senate had declared October to be National Work and Family Month. I also learned about Take Back Your Time Day on October 24. Here’s a quote from their website, hosted by the Simple Living Network:

TAKE BACK YOUR TIME DAY is a nationwide initiative to challenge the epidemic of overwork, over-scheduling and time famine that now threatens our health, our families and relationships, our communities and our environment.

From the Take Back Your Time Day site, I found a spiritual simplicity group : The Free Time/Free People Campaign
In an article titled Radical Shabbat: Free Time/Free People , Rabbi Arthur Waskow writes:

Our religious traditions teach that human beings need time for self-reflective spiritual growth, for loving family, and for communal sharing. And the earth itself needs time to rest. Yet today’s high-stress, environmentally toxic economy and culture preclude this sort of spiritual deepening.

The site talks about “the idolatry of Doing.” And I am guilty. I do and do even though I try not to do so much. Ted and I have made many conscious decisions to try to have a simple life. The type of work Ted does has allowed us to make some good choices. And in a time where it is rare for anyone to be at home during the day, all five of us, two parents and three kids are home most of the time. Lunch and dinner we eat together, and we usually have time together at night, as well as moments throughout the day. We are very blessed. and yet still we feel overwhelmed and exhausted some days. How easy the lists get longer! Even things that could refresh us, like a jog around the block, become requirements that drain us. It’s easy to feel there’s always something to do, even just being at home, with piles of papers to sort and tidy, a yard gone wild and weedy, and a house that’s gradually getting older. And if we’re not careful, even relationships become part of a to-do list, even our own children can become duties rather than daughters. It seems we need to make more choices towards simplicity. To do less and live more. And to take more time to rest. To cherish quiet, as Fred wrote earlier this week in his blog.

Well, I should go now. The girls want me to admire the hats they made from paper and dinosaur stickers. Baby Elisabeth is resting in her playpen and I may go out and enjoy my garden, play with the plants a bit here and there, while it is a sunny day. I’ll dig my fingers in deep to the soil. I’ll smell the grass and earth under my fingers and remember why we were made to be in a garden.

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