If making sure there’s spotty Internet service in my room here in Hawaii is God’s way of seeing to it that I rest from my labors, I am not impressed.
But how do I explain the fact that for the five days I’ve been here on the Big Island in a room overlooking mountains and beach, five time zones away from my normal routine, I haven’t been able to compose one intelligent paragraph? Evidently I write better when I’m pissed. Or feel passionate. Neither of which I feel here in Hawaii. Everything’s surreal to me here. I feel awful about what’s going on in Iran. I was sad to hear about the train derailing in DC. And I had meant to write here on the blog about fatherhood and masculinity for Father’s Day.
But still I can’t say that I’ve entered that place of sabbath rest our biblical ancestors had in mind in (Gen. 2:4): “God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it and abstained from all the work which God created to make.”
It’s taken me me three days to stop checking my email. Four days to stop checking my cell for texts. This morning a co-worker wrote asking for some information I promised to send while on vacation. The information he needs is sitting there on my desktop computer. Another one of God’s jokes, I suppose.
I’m lying around not doing much here in Hawaii, but it’s not like I’m resting. More like just not doing anything productive. Which, believe me, is not the same as resting. I go to the fitness center and work out every day which is no fun. Definitely not resting. More like “working” out.
The beach where we’re staying is beautiful — and baby I do mean beautiful– but, unlike the the many pale faces here with us at the resort, laying out in the sun has never been my cup of tea. There’s a luau tonight which the young ones will enjoy, and snorkeling later in the week which my baby’s daddy looks forward to. But me? Nothing. It would help if I liked the book I’m reading (recommended by a reader). But I don’t. Heading back to Borders when I finish this post.
Resting is work, that’s for sure. It’s taken me five days to unwound from my normal routine. In this age of 24 hour Internet and 24 hour cable news and constantly charged cell phones, where the lines between work and home have become blurred, where it’s possible to always be on, available and accessible, it takes some time to shut off. Unplug. Chill.
I like 12th century Nachmanides interpretation of the Genesis 2:4 verse better which says: “God ceased to perform all His creative work.”
But God I’m a blogger. Readers forget you if they click on and see that you haven’t written anything fresh in three days!
The notion of resting from one’s labor was a radical idea when it originated centuries ago. (So was the idea of tithing, mind you, but that’s another post.) Demanding sabbath rest was the slaves’ way of saying to the Empire, to slavemasters, to landowners, to supervisors, “enough is enough.” Slaves are not machines. Even the poor deserve time to themselves, with their families, to breathe in God.
Rest is a radical notion because it says, “the world has already been created. There’s really nothing more that can be added. Everything else is tinkering.” Sit down, be still, and observe God’s creation.
Rest is a radical notion because it says to all, employers and family alike, “you are not the boss of me.” While I have obligations to you I don’t belong to you. I belong to myself and to my Creator.
Here’s something to consider. The Hebrew word for rested, vyenafesh, can sometimes mean rest, ensouled, breath, to catch one’s breath, sweet fragrance, passion, and inner being. A living being is the more popular translation. Each of us has a nefesh — a soul. Meaning, we are not machines. Rest is taking the time out to gather the bits and pieces of our self that we’ve given away to others– whether for money or out of love– and to put our self/our soul back together.
I leave you for now with a story found in a book about renewal.
In the deep jungles of Africa, a traveler was making a long trek. Laborers were engaged from a tribe to carry the loads. The first day of the trip the tribesmen marched rapidly and went far. The traveler had high hopes of a speedy journey. But the second morning these jungle tribesmen refused to move. For some strange reason they just sat and rested. On inquiry as to the reason for this strange behavior, the traveler was informed that they had gone too fast the first day, and that they were now waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies.