Sunday, February 18, 2007

Sabbath in a Busy Life

I am guessing that some of my readers are wondering whether I have been able to maintain honoring Sabbath in what I have termed my busiest semester since the semester I came up for tenure.

Well, one weekend I didn't. And on Sunday evening when I went into my office yet again, only to find myself totally unable to face anything I was so tired of it all, I realized that my new attempt to claim Relentless Hard Work as a virtue was woefully misguided. So I turned around and went home.

You'd think I should have known this by now!

Still, my life is very busy; I've been having some remarkable success facing all of the things that scare me. I haven't wanted to lose momentum when the momentum is there. So I haven't been as deliberate and intentional about honoring the sabbath as I was last semester.

But I find a natural pattern settling out that I try to notice and honor: I work really hard, get tired by the end of the week, and give myself a break on Saturday mornings. Then I often go into my office to work on Saturday afternoon. On Sunday, I try not to go into my office at all, if I can help it, but I do let myself work, if I need to. The rule is that I only work on fun things, not scary things.

Then when I enter the week again, I feel spiritually renewed enough to tackle the scary things.

This has been working very well.

So, in the sabbath spirit of creating spaces for renewal, I've started thinking of "space" both in terms of time and place. Another pattern I've developed is to protect home from scary work. I let myself bring work home, but never is the work that I bring home the scary work -- just the fun work.

For me, scary = anything evaluative (including grading student work).

And my fun work includes reading for class and working on my writing.

Now that my office is the only place that I face the scary dimensions of my work, instead of that making my office a place I don't want to go, I find that it becomes a place where I find the strength and courage I need. And if, while in that space, I find myself becoming daunted or tired, I just allow myself to leave, knowing that other places are places for me to find rest and renewal.

So, I recommend this approach -- to think about sabbath both in terms of space and time. In addition to being alert for what are the natural sabbath times in the rhythm of your life (the times you naturally tend to seek rest and renewal), what are your sabbath places?

And we could add a third sabbath query: who are your "sabbath friends," the people in whose presence you find renewal? They might be people you know and can connect with in person, but they also might be writers whom you connect with by reading their writings.

Sabbath Queries
  • What are your natural sabbath times?
  • Where are your sabbath places?
  • Who are your sabbath friends?


  1. CS,

    We've discussed this before. I hope others will chime in.

    Your practice sounds similar to my personal rule: if it feels like work don't do it on the Sabbath. if it feels like play, go ahead. Gardening is an example. Sometimes I will look at the garden and see weeds and feel I "ought to" do something about it. If it's the Sabbath that means I don't. But if I look at the tomatoes and say to myself "Gee, how much they've grown since last week. I could put some more ties on the stakes." If it sings to me, I do it.

    It's important that you find activities that sing to you on the Sabbath. Gardening, sitting in a coffeehouse, listening to music, walking the dog down by the river,... That's what Sabbath was made for. It is a gift from God to man which we should gratefully accept and open like a birthday present every week.

    It's OK to do useful things on the Sabbath and to serve others but I try to be watchful and not allow it to feel burdensome.

  2. Hi CS!

    I liked reading this. I've been taking a break from some of the blogs so I haven't been commenting as often as before.

    Have you thought about becoming an executive coach? Your description of keeping the scary work in the office, and having the strength to tackle it when you get there, shows a certain tendency in that direction. :)

    Also, Robin M. just posted about our attempts to have car-free Sundays, which strikes a similar chord.

    -- Chris M.