Reflecting on this past year, I realize that my work was pretty intense, unrelenting actually. I didn’t actually work non-stop, but even when I wasn’t actively doing ministry I was thinking about it. I fully understand that this isn’t healthy or good. There’s lots of research about how important it is to have work-life balance, and a full life away from your work.
I’m usually pretty good at this, but 2020 blew those good practices away. It’s hard to have necessary, healthy distance when you work from the same chair, at the same table at which you eat meals, pay bills, call your congresspersons, wrap presents, research home improvements, make to-do lists, shop online, talk with friends, and have zoom visits with your family. That space gets very full, crowded, and cloudy. Clouds at low level are fog, and it’s easy to start to lose things in that fog. Not just details, but the ability to actually fully function. Distracted, I would tidy up my work/ life space, then couldn’t recall where I just stashed a needed item. And more than once I at least had the presence of mind to understand that I needed to get up and move around awhile before using sharp knives to cook dinner.
When I consider what I’m looking forward to this coming year, it’s for my life to not be so saturated. To have some empty space, some margin. That emptiness is the place out of which true, deep creativity and inspiration arises. It’s where New Possibility emerges. As such, that seeming emptiness is actually fertile, sacred ground.
This is the real reason for keeping a Sabbath. Even when life is humming along in good ways, filled with meaningful work and enough of what you need outside of work, all of us still need some time that’s not filled with anything, not given to anyone. We need to reserve that emptiness for rest, for connecting with family and friends over good food and shared fun, for intimacy with a significant other. We need that time set aside just in case the great Mystery decides to drop by for a visit.
This is actually an important way we can regularly invite creativity and new ideas to arrive. We clear our calendar and set aside some time. We clean and order our space, and as we do the fog begins to clear. We put on clothes that make us feel our best, and start a playlist of favorite songs while we prepare a meal. Then we welcome others to this celebration of life. And sometimes what also slips in is the great Mystery, Presence, Sacred Possibility.
All of this is what we need in order to remember that we’re human beings capable of making art, love, justice, and in fact whole new ways of life in community. It’s what we need as we face the future, which we know has to be so very different than our past. It’s how we do all of this not anxiously, resentfully, fearfully all on our own, but with joy, in partnership with beloveds, knowing that we are each beloved by Life itself.
We can begin just by knowing that each of us are worthy of this sacred rest and renewal. It’s one of the best places we could possibly begin to turn toward the future.