Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
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Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings.
— Leviticus 23:3
Sunday is considered a day of rest in our culture, for Christians and secularists alike, and many people of other faiths living in this country have adjusted to it. Over the centuries we've taken this to mean "a day of rest from going to work" but it's rare for it to truly be a day of rest. Sunday is the day for mowing the lawn, washing the car, cooking large meals, catching up on email, going to the cash and carry, or any number of other jobs we don't have the time during the week to complete. And when we do "rest" it is usually in front of the TV being tube-fed entertainment, and maybe falling asleep after eating too much. So to the letter of the law, if we're not at work we are technically not working and when on the sofa we are technically resting but our implementation of the law most commonly fails to touch its spirit.
Making scripture relevant to our current lives is challenging. We can take it literally, or we can interpret it to such an extent that the original spirit disappears. I think the balance comes, not from dissecting and reconstructing each word or phrase in a modern context but in finding the metaphor—and our metaphors will always be of our time. My metaphor for resting, in terms of the sabbath, is pausing to listen. In a very simple sense resting is pausing, standing still, breathing, looking around me; it means waiting, not acting. It means opening my ears, my heart and my spirit to what is being asked of me. It is rare that I take the time to do this, rushing forward like most of us to the next important thing, quite forgetting I rarely know what that actually is.
Returning to the book of Exodus to read an earlier rendering of the weekly Sabbath law we gain a more more nuanced understanding:
Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed. — Exodus 23:12
This indicates that our rest is not for ourselves but to the benefit of those we depend on, and who depend on us. In other words, if we don't take time for renewal, others suffer. For me those others are my wife, children, close friends, work colleagues, and those I serve. The more I become caught up in my own plans and desires the more I become entrapped in the bondage of self, and the less freedom I then have to be present for the needs of others. I become self-centred when I need to be other-centred. Taking time to pause, to listen, to let go, creates the opportunity to move forward, restored, renewed and a little more aware. At least until the rush of life sweeps me up again.