Eighteen years ago, my wife and I courted over a distance of 1700 miles. Though our courtship consisted mainly of lengthy phone calls and heartfelt letters, it was in those moments when I made myself still—to sit down and read a card she had sent or re-read a hand-written letter—that I found my heart beating a notch or two faster, beautifully reminded of her love.
In this week’s reading of The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time, author Judith Shulevitz discusses the idea of the Romantic Sabbath—an unpressured, serendipitous, nostalgic experience of time—that has less to do with keeping the law than with freedom from the constraints of time. Shulevitz’s appreciation for such a Sabbath was brought into her heart through her relationship with her Rabbi—Rabbi Paul—who gives her permission to meditate on the Laws instead of merely following them. She could allow herself to love the laws by holding them in her mind as poems to live by.
When I think of the days of my courtship with my wife—how the slowing down allowed me to receive her love more deeply—I can appreciate a romantic view of Sabbath. Isn’t it a way of slowing to savor the intimacy God invites us to? Yet, I wonder if Sabbath as a particular posture isn’t something more. I wonder if Sabbath might look something like this:
Imagine walking in the mountains and working up a powerful thirst. It just so happens you come across a cold, snow-melt mountain stream.
Now, in order to get the water in the steam up to your mouth, you must kneel next to the stream, lean over with a cupped hand, reach into the stream, and then pull your cupped hand up to your mouth so you can drink.
Those are the postures you need to use to get the water into your mouth. The water does the thirst-quenching refreshment, of course; but without the postures of kneeling, cupping, dipping, and drinking, the water cannot do its job.
Romance can bring meaning to life. Maybe—just maybe—the role Sabbath plays in our lives can remind us of how God wants us to stop, rest, and become aware of how he woos us.
But what if I think about how Sabbath functions in my life as a posture that connects me to not only rest and God’s passionate love, but also refreshment? Sabbath rest is surely a posture where grace is experienced—and isn’t grace the ultimate way God not only woos us, but refreshes us? Isn’t our Sabbath rest an opportunity to be reminded of God not only initiating a relationship with us, but also sustaining us?
When it comes to relationships, the word ‘jealous’ seems like such an ugly, detrimental word. But because God is jealous for us (he even says so himself), that has to be a good thing—right?
While Sabbath might not be a particularly romantic notion, because God is jealous for us, I wonder if Sabbath doesn’t, in fact, ooze romance—so it becomes the ultimate romance. Sabbath is the kind of romance that not only awakens our entire being in the early stages of love, but continues to nourish and refresh the deepest part of ourselves over the long, thirsty walk through life.
Thanks for joining us on Mondays in July as we consider how we order our days. As we read through The Sabbath World together, we would love to hear from you about what Sabbath means to you, what influences you in your practice of Sabbath-keeping, and if you have noticed an impact Sabbath-keeping has on the hard work of living your life. Leave your thoughts in the comments, and if you are reading and blogging along, drop your link there, too. Next week John Blase finishes up our discussion with thoughts on parts Six and Seven.