Ceasing and desisting.

With graduation from my Master of Divinity program behind me, I’m beginning to realize how easy it is to simply move on to the next thing.  This smacked me in the face particularly hard on the Friday night before commencement, when as friends and faculty congratulated me on my accomplishment, they each seemed incapable of leaving off the parting comment, “But, you’re not really done, are you?”  After all, I do have another degree to finish.  I have classes this summer, Annual Conference to attend.  I will be studying for the GRE, applying for some mission programs, attempting against all odds to learn some Spanish.  But… no one would simply allow me to rest in what I had already done.  More than anyone, I know what is left to do, what is ahead.  One day, even just an evening, would have been a lovely space in which to look at the last three years, breathe deeply, and exhale.  But we push one another into the future.  I’ve been thinking about this during the last week since graduation.  It’s why I haven’t written.

Sometimes, it’s simply a good thing to rest, to take a break, even from the things we enjoy.  It’s good to be present in what we’ve already done and not attempt to move into the next phase of the process.  It’s good to be still and view the past from this particular vantage point, take some stock, freshen up a moment before stepping out again.  It’s good to clear the mind of what’s already been by appreciating and revelling in how it has come to pass.  I worked all week at a job I enjoy, though it’s emotionally draining and often heartbreaking.  In that break, between graduation and gearing up for what’s to come this summer, I found myself rested, even in the difficulty of work.  It was, in an odd way, a vacation.  And this sense, of needing to take a week or so to simply do something else, use my mind and my hands in new ways, to engage my heart with kids who can’t read or do math rather than with books about theology or doctrine, I sought out a sabbath time.  And stumbled into the realization that I need to schedule this.  The word from which we get “sabbath,” shabbat, derives from the idea of ceasing and desisting.  This doesn’t mean to cease existence or to be lazy.  It simply means to stop the work you’ve been doing and to rest by being a different way for a time in order to appreciate, refresh, and return with a new heart.  I am very good at procrastination.  This is not shabbat. I am also an expert at doing exactly what I like because it feels fun at the time and I’d rather not be doing something else.  This, too, is not shabbat.  What I need is an intentional break, a setting aside of habitual work in an effort at habitual rest.  This looked like taking time from writing this week, and it also looked like appreciating my newly minted degree before diving into the next one.  It looked like building a garden outside my apartment yesterday and visiting with friends yesterday evening rather than striving to outline my presentation for Annual Conference next week. Because the work will always be there, and I can’t do it if I’m not connected and rejuvenated.  Pushing through it isn’t as helpful or as lovely, doesn’t speak to the appreciation I have for simply being alive today, as focusing on it at the right time, after a bit of rest.  Putting everything into perspective, getting a handle on where the priorities lay.  God never ordered anyone to work, but God keeps reminding us to rest.  To cease and desist.  To shabbat.

So here’s the plan.  I’m starting small but with commitment.  Thursday mornings are now unshatterably sacred.  They are mine, all mine… for time to simply be, with God, alone, in company with friends, however rest will look.  But they will be different from the rest of the week.  No procrastination, simply sheer existence without the purpose of accomplishment.  Until noon on Thursdays, consider me at rest, ceased and desisting.

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