This summer, I decided to try something different and am trading childcare with a couple friends so I work 9 to 4 two days a week and then have my friend's kids two days a week. At the end of one of those chaotic, fun-filled days, I am reminded of the exhaustingly joyful nature of a day spent getting out and keeping busy for the sake of fun for the kids and, quite honestly, one's sanity.
I think I have been more "busy" in the last week than in the last nine months. We've been to two parks, the library and swimming in the three days I've had extra kids in tow. And while my default, introvert preference is quiet and calm -- usually achieved comfortably at home alone or with my spouse or a close friend -- I have found myself less unsettled and with a greater sense of purpose in these full days than I have for a long time.
That's not to say I could maintain this pace indefinitely. My transition to working part time while participating in a distributed learning seminary program in the fall is looking much less daunting. By the time fall rolls around, it may be a welcome reprieve.
As I reflect, the last nine months served a purpose. We all need to step away from a place of being constantly busy and needed and embrace the reality of what we experience when we have "nothing to do" for a significant period of time. It was my Sabbatical, of sorts. A daily Sabbath at the very least.
I entered this time empty, drained, and spent. As I encountered these unfilled spaces of time, I struggled with an equal sense of need to just rest and "be" clouded by a sense of obligation to "do" something and guilt for time spent doing "nothing." This tension, which I dealt with better some days than others, was never fully resolved. I have definitely felt a sense of purpose and comfort in having to be certain places and do certain things over the last few days.
Which makes me wonder ... what about this time left me with such feelings of emptiness and guilt? I certainly struggled when I heard about or saw the busy pace of my friends' lives, many of whom would benefit greatly from a day to just be at peace. Which also makes me wonder ... why is it so hard for us, especially those of us who have entered the role of parent, to claim the need for Sabbath ... the need to step away, to rest, to refresh for the sake of ourselves and those we love?
As I enjoy this Friday where the kids and I have slowed down from a busy week, I certainly appreciate the slower pace all the more. Maybe both extremes are simply much like the laws of motion ... "Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it. " The same is true of an object at rest. Something has to act upon whatever state we are in to either push us forward or bring us to stillness.
Perhaps that is why the Sabbath was so important that it was included in the commandments. In a life of motion, to come to rest takes action. Something has to absorb the energy that would instead keep us in motion. Yet God calls us to do the hard work of figuring out how to come into a state of rest for the sake of our relationship with God, those around us, and ourselves.
How do you bring all that would continue to be in motion to rest? What stillness are you in need of today?