I’ve long feared my heart is like an angry freight train churning downhill into oblivion. Sometimes, amid moments of clarity, I stop and ask myself, “Why?”
I’m convinced that the fall of humanity purchased a consequence especially applicable to me,
…cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground… (Genesis 3:17-19).
Our self-imposed slavery often leaves us at the twilight of our projects and pursuits wondering whether the awkward and diluted sense of accomplishment we feel was really what we were seeking all along. But we keep going, like the mouse on the wheel, like the freight train pummeling down the cliff: we’re racing toward an unforeseen end.
Every Friday night sirens pierce the fading light.
Twenty five hours of rest, each one serving as a silent commentary on my Westernized soul. If I’m honest, I believe my worth is intimately intertwined with what I’m able to produce. Scripture is clear: our identity is intrinsic. We are who we are by the breath and the grace of God.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; mail and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).
Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature (Genesis 2:7).
And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation (Genesis 2:2-3).
I suppose it goes without saying that we could learn a thing or two from God. God creates. Everything is deemed “very good.” There’s no Hebrew word for “perfect”, but it’s clear that creation is unfinished. Human beings are placed atop sod with a purpose, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28).
Humanity stands on the brink of a hope, a purpose. Moments (seemingly) later, everything goes wrong. Creation falls apart. God knows exactly what is about to happen. Creation, His prize, His masterpiece, is about to unravel.
Still, He rests.
Are we able to pull back from our work, even when it remains unfinished, imperfect, and even possessing the distinct possibility to crumble, leaving us look vulnerable and…rest?
One of my professors tells the story of a bathroom remodeling project he hired out to a Jerusalemite. It was Friday and the project was well behind schedule (Middle Eastern time is a bit different than we’re used to). Morning bled into afternoon, and as the sun sunk into the Judean Hill Country, the remodeler’s pace quickened. Suddenly, the man tossed his tools to the tile, raced out of the house, and sped off into the sunset. He never returned. Sabbath called, and he answered.
Upon returning home, I want to let go. I’ll always remember jogging through the center of the streets of West Jerusalem on Saturday afternoons. People don’t drive on Sabbath. Life shuts down. People come together and look to their Maker in an attempt to reclaim the sense of dignity we, as His creation, have been endowed with.
In the tempestuous ocean of time and toil there are islands of stillness where man may enter a harbor and reclaim his dignity. The island is the seventh day, the Sabbath, a day of detachment from things, instruments and practical affairs as well as of attachment to the spirit (Abraham Joshua Heschel)