On Sabbath Joys and Small Leaks

 Beware of little expenses. Small leaks will sink great ships.

Like too many people I know, the concept of “Sabbath” is difficult for me. Perhaps I’ve sold out to the belief that my inherent worth is directly related to what I can achieve…or perhaps I’m just a mom with five kids, and some special needs in the mix as well. Either way, making the commitment to Sabbath is something I find hard.

When my youngest son was a toddler, he helped me create a shared Sabbath space. With him as my tiny guide, I began to explore the rhythms of rest. But when he started school, the Sabbath space he vacated quickly filled with the thousand and one items on my to-do list. Without him as my anchor, the waves of busyness quickly drown out the space I’d reserved for rest.

In an effort to water the soil of my soul, I make a commitment to keep Sabbath, by myself, every Thursday as I once did with my son. I don’t keep Sabbath in any formal way; I don’t do holy things. My working definition of “Sabbath” is that I don’t do anything that doesn’t bring me joy.

Making the commitment to Sabbath is something I find hard.

So I read. I go for long walks. Sometimes I eat Pringles for breakfast, straight from the can. I play Super Mario Bros. III on the Wii, despite the 1.6% lag rate compared to the original Nintendo Entertainment System. I can absorb a lag rate on a Sabbath day. Everything is supposed to move more slowly.

But the laundry beckons. I’ll just do one load, I say. The kids won’t have any clean socks tomorrow morning if I don’t. It will only take me 15 minutes, if I just grab the obvious stuff and don’t sort the whole pile.

I throw in the laundry. The sky outside is a brilliant blue, framing golden leaves as they flutter to the ground. I want to go for a walk. But my son’s special ed teacher just called, and I should probably call her back. It clearly wasn’t a crisis crisis; I could tell from her tone of voice…but one never knows when an unchecked low-level issue can escalate into something much worse.

The laundry, the phone call. Might as well do the dishes. My Sabbath is frittered away by detail. Once the dishes are done, the kitchen floor looks worse. I absolutely must vacuum. Best to wipe the table and counters before I do.

Small leaks will sink great ships.

~

The promise of a repeated ritual is that you get a chance to try again.

The next week, Thursday. I work so hard to get the house mostly to rights before the kids leave for school…but my daughter can’t find her shoes. My son forgot to charge his iPad. My kindergartner—on a growth spurt, apparently—needs to eat breakfast three times in a row.

I walk back from the bus stop and face the chaos and disarray of a life lived with five still-growing humans. And I want to cry. All I aspire to is a basic level of household tidiness, and we can’t even attain that. I pick up a pair of underwear that was lying on the floor, defeated. I’ll just throw in a load of laundry.

And vacuum.

And the kitchen. I won’t even be able to stand to make myself breakfast in that state that it’s currently in.

But small leaks will sink great ships.

I drop the underwear back on the floor. I grab my keys and a book and go out for breakfast. When I return home the mess will still be there, and I might hate myself for leaving it. But such is the discipline of Sabbath. I am choosing to make a space for rest where there is none.

Small leaks will sink great ships. My Sabbath might be invulnerable to my to-do list, to the Big Items I write on my calendar…but the small leaks of daily life will take it down, unless I choose otherwise. Unless I make the space for Sabbath…and for freedom, surrender, and joy.

Special thanks to the Creative Light Factory for the fortune cookie writing prompt, and for giving me the space to write about Sabbath.

Elrena Evans

Elrena Evans is Editor and Content Strategist for Evangelicals for Social Action, and holds an MFA in creative writing from Penn State. She is the author of a short story collection, This Crowded Night, and co-author of the essay collection Mama, PhD: Women Write About Motherhood and Academic Life. Her work has also appeared in Plough, Red Letter Christians, In Touch Magazine, Princeton Theological Seminary’s The Thread, and elsewhere. She enjoys spending time with her family, dancing, and making spreadsheets. Follow her on Instagram @elrenaevans.
Elrena Evans

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