Of First Failures and Saturday Sabbaths

Being tired for me has now become a permanent state of being, whether I have thirteen hours of sleep, or two. No matter what I do, there will always be something next on the never ending to-do lists. My friends tell me to drop things, or to take a break, but nothing seems to be effective, so I keep waiting for the next Pro-D Day, or the next regional holiday, or spring break, or summer (please come faster). It doesn’t help that I’m an introvert living in an extrovert’s world; recharging in solitude doesn’t really work out when there’s never a moment of solitude.

I’ve come to realize that there is a difference between rest and relief. Relief is a quick pit stop, a moment of peace among the chaos. Relief is slowing to catch your breath, before setting the treadmill setting to 8.0 again. Relief is charging your phone to 30% and saying that will be enough to last the day (it never is). Relief is caffeine, blocking adenosine receptors, causing cells to speed up, and neurons to fire faster. It never truly takes away your tiredness.

Although technology has sped up our world, it feels like there’s hardly any time left for anything. The only solution seems to be productivity, a constant clock ticking on your left wrist, on your phone, on every wall. The reason why I chose the spiritual discipline of Sabbath.

Resting is a discipline.

People, including myself, always wait for that moment of rest, but never actually use it for rest. Resting is difficult. In this world of being constantly on-the-go, taking a break is challenging, because you feel – I feel – like I need to be productive. But there’s something about the Sabbath that’s supposed to make you more productive.

I tried to have a rest day; I didn’t do anything school related or work related. I went out with a few people, lazed around in bed, tinkled the piano I suppose, and at the end of the day, I felt the same. It was a little discouraging. In Lauren F. Winner’s book, Mudhouse Sabbath, she spoke of a sadness that came at the end of Shabbat: “Judaism speaks of a neshamah yeteirah, an extra soul that comes to dwell in you on the Sabbath, but departs once the week begins” (8).

I didn’t feel anything. But I realized that I had the same problem Winner did. The problem with a Christian Sabbath, or even a secular Sabbath, was that it “was more an afternoon off than a Sabbath. It was an add-on to a busy week, not the fundamental unit around which [one organizes one’s] life” (9).

My failure to rest begs the question: how do I actually find rest, and genuine rest?

A large part of my problem is and was my phone. Instagram and Facebook have limitless amounts of information; once, I spent a few hours watching Ted-Ed videos on the most random of things, from the real story behind Cleopatra, to bipolar disorders, to how jeans were invented. Despite not doing anything “productive,” my brain was still constantly barraged by information. I was relieving myself, and my body rested as I lay in bed, but my mind never rested.

Not only that, but there was no God in my Sabbath. There was no intentionality to seek God and keep my Sabbath holy. Yes, He’s always there, but what I was doing wrong was that I only intended for that Saturday to be a day of rest but not rest. I didn’t realize I needed to. In every practice, every religious ceremony, the Jews did it with intentionality; everything, down to what they ate and wore, had meaning. Their rest, their Shabbat, had meaning; it went way beyond a list of rules of what not to do.

Next Saturday, I’ll be leaving my phone behind. And hopefully, I’ll find the rest I’m looking for.

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