A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a book reading by Alan Gurganus, a beloved North Carolina writer. He was reading from his newest book of novellas, Local Souls. In his 3 peice tweed suit and matching ball cap, his southern accent and deadpan humor pulled me into the story in an instant. While I’d love to tell you all about this book, my favorite Christmas present this year, what really struck me were his comments after the reading, specifically his take on Sabbath.
One person from the crowd asked about Alan’s (may I call him Alan?) writing process. How did he pull these wonderful North Carolina-set stories out of thin air and make them come to life on a page?
He spoke of putting himself in a room with no TV, no internet, and no phone. He talked about how counter cultural this is… working in a hermit like way that lends itself to concentration rather than to glorifying a level of busy.”We’re living in a world where it seems we are only as important as the number of interruptions in our day” he said. “We must defend our territory of spiritual life.”
It sounds almost like an oxymoron. An intense, war-like defense of peaceful and spiritual territory?
But he’s got a point. If we don’t defend our territory of spiritual life, it will wither. Obligations and pressures for the parts of our life that are not spiritually focused, will close in and demand time and attention. And if we’re not vigilant, we’ll give it all away without blinking an eye. Then we’ll wonder how our lives got so busy and our time for worship and rest, for Sabbath, got so short.
I’m planning a weekly Sunday school class on Sabbath and as I work, I’m reminded that we are often our own worst enemy when it comes to keeping that commandment. We’d like to blame bosses, coaches, social commitments, and community events, but at the end of the week, it’s we who are not defending our Sabbath against the barrage of needs and requests of others. There’s a million reasons why our defenses are down…but a big one is that all those interruptions DO make us feel important…more important even than attending to the Sabbath commandment that was created just for us by a God who loves us.
People, that is so backwards.
Defending a Sabbath territory may sound a bit militant, but as I see so many giving up Sabbath practices in favor of feeling “important” and looking busy, I wonder if a stronger defense is in order. A resolve that makes us go all mama-bear on our one day set aside for worship and rest. A resolve that will let NOTHING, come between our selves and our Sabbath.
As this New Year rolls in and we all make the same resolutions we made and promptly forgot last year, I hope instead, you’ll gather your resolve, go mama-bear on all those outside pressures, and defend your Sabbath territory with all you have. The feelings of true Sabbath are a greater and more lasting gift than the feelings of created importance.
May you make space in 2014 for rest, worship, family, and the gifts of Sabbath.