Year of Plenty: First We Rest

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The following excerpt by Craig Goodwin adds a humorous Sabbath component to our Friday conversations about personal finance.


Normal people would plan months in advance for an experiment like this. Perhaps they would start in spring with the hopeful appearance of asparagus sprigs and onion shoots. That was the approach Barbara Kingsolver and her family took as they began their Animal, Vegetable, Miracle experiment. And even if someone were to think about launching such an experiment in the dead of winter, they would be wise to spend all summer canning and freezing every bit of fresh fruits and vegetables they could get their hands on. They would buy a cow's worth of beef and pack it in the freezer like an Inuit preparing for a long, hard winter. And knowing that anything in the house at the beginning of the year is fair game, the smart people among us would go into the year with a well-stocked house complete with subconsciously stowed items like twenty-pound bags of sugar and a year's supply of toilet paper awaiting feigned discovery once the experiment got started.

We put in two days of casual preparation.

True, Nancy did make a covert trip to the store to stock up on chocolate chips and toilet paper. When she asked me what we should do to prepare, I naively said we'd be fine. "That's all part of the adventure, isn't it? We'll take each day as it comes." Needless to say, the days came quickly. Once we crossed the threshold of the new year, we were forced to face the harsh reality of two cups of sugar in the pantry and twenty sheets of paper in the printer, not to mention the limits of January produce.

It might not have made much sense from a planning perspective, but there was a certain logic to starting in the dead of winter. Having devised our plans and plotted our course, the rhythm of our first days was to slow down and wait, to wait for the ground to thaw out and for the days to get longer. There was no getting around this seasonal brick wall. Those first days were not unlike the weekly rhythm of the Sabbath day.

We tend to imagine the Sabbath as a time of rest at the end of a long week, a time to recharge batteries and gear up for another crazy week. Indeed, in the Jewish observation it has always been the seventh day, the last day of the week. But it's important to take note that in the book of Genesis, the Sabbath is creation's seventh day, but for humankind it is the first full day. As the story goes man and woman are created and commissioned.

"Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground" (Gen. 1:28).

It is a comprehensive call to productivity and action, the ultimate pep talk.

Imagine awaking for this first day with the longest to-do list ever devised hanging on the fridge and God says, "First we rest." Genesis says,

"Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done" (Gen. 2:1-3).

The Hebrew word shabbat literally means "stop." The first full day in creation for man and woman was not a day of work, but a day of stopping and waiting. The rhythm of the Sabbath starts in the goodness and reality of God as creator, the lord of all things and all people. We are born into the grace of a world we didn't create, sustained by provisions we didn't stockpile, and encouraged to rest in our utter dependence.

I've always found it curious that in the first Genesis creation account the creative energies of each day are summed up with the words, "And there was evening, and there was morning..." In the same way that the Sabbath is first and not last, this order of evening and morning confuses our normal way of thinking. We imagine morning as the beginning of a new day. We tend to see our waking to action as the beginning place but the rhythm of creation puts the evening first. The wisdom of the Jewish observation of the Sabbath has always been to follow this pattern, starting not at sunup but at sundown. The day begins not with taking charge, but rather with letting go in the vulnerability of darkness and sleep.


To start in January did not feel like a gift of grace initially, but looking back I can see how it might have been a key to us actually sticking with our plans. Had we launched quickly into the hard work of summer, we would have likely worn ourselves out in a flurry of activity. Our enthusiasm would have gotten the better of us, and, like the vast majority of New Year's resolutions, our efforts would have crumbled under the weight of our limited discipline and energy. The dark days of January forced us to settle in for the long haul.

For fear that I may be in danger of romanticizing the virtues of these first days, I want to highlight one more aspect of starting in winter that is reminiscent of the Sabbath; it was a total pain in the butt, an inconvenience of epic proportions. As Judith Shulevitz describes in her book, Sabbath World,

"The old-time Sabbath does not fit comfortably into our lives. It scowls at our dewy dreams of total relaxation and freedom from obligation. The goal of the Sabbath may be rest, but it isn't personal liberty or unfettered leisure. The Sabbath seems designed to make life as inconvenient as possible."


From Year of Plenty: One Suburban Family, Four Rules, and 365 Days of Homegrown Adventure in Pursuit of Christian Living by Craig L. Goodwin copyright © 2011 Sparkhouse Press an imprint of Augsburg Fortress, admin. Augsburg Fortress. Reproduced by permission. All rights reserved. Copies of the book may be purchased at No further reproduction allowed without the written permission of Augsburg Fortress.

Image by Christian Holmer. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr. Craig is a High Calling member and blogs at Year of Plenty.