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Take a Timeout

Updated: Mar 21

For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it. —Exodus 20:11

“How are you feeling?” they asked me.

“Um, I’m not sure.” I’d been so consumed by work-related to-dos, going from task to task and tackling surprise occurrences so obsessively that I hadn’t taken the time enough to check my own pulse. How’s that for a spiritual leader in this Lenten season of self-reflection? It appears I need a timeout; rather, I need to take one. That’s on me.

Hebrew Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann says that the Fourth Commandment is the toughest one to keep: “Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). Sabbath moments are meant for remembering; remembering who we are and whose we are: God’s Beloved. And timeouts are for the taking; intentionally taking back our sacred personhood, crafted and rooted in divine love.

Last week I took a timeout. The boy was home for a few days from his first year of college, so I carved out time to be with him. We made plans to go to Huntsville State Park and hike the 7-mile Chinquapin Loop Trail. The weather was good to us. It was mostly quiet. With the sound of each of our steps touching the ground, the passing of time became more and more evident. So, I leaned into the short-lived moment. Instead of drowning in production and task completion, I allowed myself to be immersed in the unplanned conversations that bubbled up along the trail between us. As we walked together, there were a million things on my mind just under the surface, but sabbath-keeping held them back. There was nowhere else my scattered soul wanted to be. This was pure joy. This was holiness remembered.

At a gathering of local faith leaders this week, one of our colleagues prayed, “With so many horrible things happening in the world, we will take this moment to resist by being joyful.” In his book Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now, Brueggeman writes, “Sabbath is the cornerstone of faithful freedom. Such faithful practice of work stoppage is an act of resistance.” I don’t often think of taking timeouts from the things that keep me in a state of spiritual aloofness as claiming joy and resisting horror, but that’s always the reality of it. Seizing sabbath moments is an act of resisting anything that pulls me away from my identity in God’s image of abundant love, and of resisting anything that would have me prioritize things and behave in ways that contradict that ever-present, liberating love. And it requires intentionality.

If I were to ask you, “How are you feeling?,” what my innermost self is really asking you is, “Who are you?” If the answer is, “I’m not sure,” you are overdue for a timeout. I’m preaching to myself, but I pray that you’re hearing it too, God’s Beloved.


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