09 March 2015

getting down with the sabbath.

Back in the day, God said that we should keep the Sabbath. Every seventh day, we should take a break from the hustle and bustle of life to slow down and relax before the start of another week.

But somewhere along the way, we lost that. Growing up in American culture, I can’t recall anyone really observing it. In my family, Sunday meant that we went to Mass. But other than that, there weren’t any rules. One of my siblings would have a soccer game. Mom would do laundry and Dad would mow the lawn.

Well, Michael and I are getting serious about the Sabbath.

A few months ago, Michael and I were feeling run down. We had both been sick (again) and more than that, we felt busy all of the time. Even when we weren’t working, we were busy. One of us would have to run errands in town. The other had to go to the market to pick up produce. We were seemingly always prepping for the next meal, cleaning rice and beans, boiling and filtering water, etc.

“What gives?” we thought. “We came to Tanzania to slow down our lives and most days, it feels busier!”

We decided to talk to our spiritual director about this. His first question was, “How’s your Sabbath practice?”

our spiritual director is kind of like yoda.

Insert silence.

We asked him, “Ummm, what’s a Sabbath supposed to look like?”

He explained that a Sabbath can be any day of the week, but it should be a completely open day, free of any obligations that you don’t enjoy. Think of it as a day to “pray and play” - 24 hours that you use to reboot and get ready for the week ahead.

Our initial reaction? That sounds nice but, ain’t nobody got time for that. A whole day?!? How are we possibly going to do that?

In addition, it seemed a little selfish. We came here to serve the poor and marginalized, and the Sabbath sounded like a chance to escape from the reason why we had come here. Most of the Tanzanians we live with don’t have the luxury of a Sabbath. Going to church services is a really important part of their day but once that’s over, they go right back to work. Many Tanzanians we know never catch a break.

sights like this in mwanza incentivize us to get away from it all from time to time.

“If they have to live like that, we should too,” we told ourselves. “We’re here to live in solidarity with the poor and I don’t think it’s solidarity if we just back out one day every week.”

Our spiritual director wasn’t dancing to the tune we were singing. “You came here to Tanzania to try to serve, in whatever way you can. Do you think you’re doing that to the best of your abilities when you’re worn out, tired, and in a negative mood?”

Well, when you put it that way!

“Don’t let yourselves be fooled,” he went on. “Tanzanians are tired. They want to rest. They want a Sabbath. You can’t serve them if you’re feeling like that yourselves. If you really want to live out your solidarity with the poor, you have to have the energy to do so.”

Okay, so it sounded pretty plausible. We decided to give it a shot. We cleared out our Saturday calendar and worked hard to keep it that way. Even when it would have been easier to do a certain chore on a Saturday, we’d move it to Sunday in order to preserve our Sabbath.

Well, we’ve been keeping at it for the last two months, and honestly, I love it. I relish our Saturdays together. We may go out to a local hotel to sit on the beach and have some sodas. We might just stay at home and catch up on emails. But whatever we do, it’s what we want to do and it gives us the space to get away from it all and breathe.

it's easy to forget that we live not to far from beautiful sites like this.

No obligations and no work. Just a 100% free day.

I don’t know where we’re headed after Tanzania, but I want to keep this up. The Sabbath has changed my outlook on the week, showing me the importance of the spiritual practice of rest. I find myself heading into Sunday with a better attitude and more energy in my step. God was right - the Sabbath is where it’s at.

What about you? Ready to give the Sabbath a try?

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