A Life Full of Sabbaths

It's Wendell Berry all this month. I drink in his essays, turning words over and over in my mouth. I read him aloud, even when no one is listening. Last night as she spreads cornmeal on wooden boards, I read her three paragraphs to give context to the quote written on the chalkboard: Though they have no Sundays, their days are full of Sabbaths. He speaks of the cedar waxwings eating grapes in November. But he penned the poem The Peace of the Wild Things nearby then and poetry is meant to speak of the mysterious in the mundane and so he speaks of us, or the hoped-for us.

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This morning I read in Mark of Jesus healing on the Sabbath, the pharisees outrage, and the calm response of the Lord of the Sabbath: "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath."

How we have forgotten that. How have we forgotten that?

She is leaving to get bread flour to bake round loaves in the brick-oven. Do you want to come with, she asks, dropping her prepositional phrase and picking up her purse. I am drinking coffee on the side porch and nothing could bid me leave the wild rushing of the river in front of me and the song of the orioles above me. This is my sabbath and I am made for it, I think.

The last time I was home was a year ago, in May, and I have waited a year for these few days. They are not exactly as I imagined in my mind, other duties and events capped its full breadth, but it is a few days at least of quiet and still. I was made for this week, I think. The coals burned hot in the brick-oven the other night and faces gathered around the tables, children everywhere, laughter lingering. A phone call from Malaysia from a globe-trotting brother: you always sound so happy when you're home, he said, and it is true, except when it hasn't been.

I have lived this year holding my breath, it seems, waiting for the mornings when I could sleep past 4:30 or when I at least didn't have to hit the ground running, literally, as soon as I woke. I have lived this year waiting for Sabbath, guarding it with a fervor I didn't know I had. If anyone came near it, I would square my jaw and shake my head: it's mine!

I preened myself for my Sabbaths.

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Whenever I rest and really rest, empty my head of expectations (yours and mine), listen, really listen, I remember there is nothing of my doing in salvation; that salvation is one long rest in the same direction. There is work too, obedience and sanctification, moments of weakness and moments of strength. But at its core and its very marrow, the work of salvation is rest, Sabbath. It is to say, again and again and again, I rest in You, Lord of Rest. I find my Sabbath in you, Lord of the Sabbath.

The work of salvation is to live a life full to Sabbaths, even when there is no margin and little space, when there is demand from every outside element and every inside emotion. This is to trust that a God who rested when His work was not done—even when it was good—to set an example for His people: You are not done, children, no, but it is still good. And so rest. You are not made for Sabbath, the Sabbath was made for you.