sabbaths & jubilees

F and I just got back from three blissful days in the sun, sans S. Thanks to the grace of God or the flip side of all the bad karma I’ve been enduring over the past five nauseous months, it was the single most perfect vacation I’ve ever had.

No, it didn’t surpass the honeymoon in terms of joy or the international adventure we took together in terms of excitement. But in terms of sheer Perfection – of everything falling into place, of delightful surprises happening at every step, of ease and beauty and comfort and relaxation – I have never had three days in a row like that in my life.

I knew we needed a vacation, but I didn’t know how much we needed that vacation. We both came back refreshed, renewed, rejuvenated. I feel like I can live off the treasure of that rare time together, just the two of us, for months and months to come.

I wholeheartedly admit that I had very few deep and theological thoughts during those three days. Frankly, once the sun and surf set in, I had very few thoughts, period. But flying home on the plane, my mind started to wander and alighted on the idea of sabbath.

Lately I’ve been trying to live sabbath in a more deliberate way. I decided to go computer-free on Sundays and not even crack the laptop lid to check my home email. I try to leave the “weekend’s end” housework for Monday morning in order to have all day Sunday to relax into another rhythm.

While it’s been a challenging practice in some ways (for instance, the fact that it’s rare a day goes by that I don’t feel the need to Go.ogle something), it has also been freeing and refreshing. Sundays feel suddenly spacious, full of time for family fun and playing outside and cooking something delicious to enjoy. I didn’t realize how much I needed a real sabbath until I started taking baby steps towards it.

So on our long flight home, I mused about whether this vacation had been a sabbath. True, it was a time of rest and renewal, of setting aside work for the pleasure of simply being. But it was more than a weekend’s relaxation; it was a joyful plunge into a time entirely outside our norm, a long luxury of time that flowed to another rhythm.

That’s when it hit me: this vacation was like a jubilee.

Allow the theologian side of the mothering spirit to rear its ugly head for a moment. For the ancient Israelites, the jubilee year came around once every fifty years. It was a sacred time when liberty was proclaimed throughout the land, when lands were restored to their rightful owners, when debts were forgiven, when farms lay fallow to allow creation to rejuvenate.

The jubilee was a whole year that felt entirely Other: it had its own rhythm which pulled people out of The Way Things Are Always Done and into God’s time of The Way Things Should Be. Debts were forgiven, slaves were set free, all who were hungry were fed.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I am not equating our trip to the sunshine state with a biblical mandate for social justice. (It’s ludicrous to even write that sentence.) Instead, the relevance of the jubilee here is that it was intended to be an Ultimate sabbath: not just a day, but a whole year set aside for people to live according to a different rhythm, to rediscover their roots and their relationship with God. We need little sabbaths and we need long jubilees. The God of Israel wisely ordained both.

Likewise, as parents we need regular sabbath time. Maybe it’s a weekly date night. Maybe it’s a quiet cup of morning tea before the rest of the house awakes. However we can carve out the space and time, we need moments that take us away, even briefly, from the work and the worry. We need to reconnect with our center, ourselves, our spouse, our God.

But the gift of this vacation with F made me realize that as parents and as spouses, we need big jubilee moments, too. Not just a nice date night, but a real chunk of time and space – big enough to settle into and breathe deeply – that feels Other enough to remind us of what’s most important: the relationship that started it all, the love that sustains it. A jubilee rhythm that reorients us completely to the way we’re supposed to live, to the plans that God has for us.

I like this idea of jubilee. Granted, F and I haven’t been parents or spouses for anywhere near the fifty years that one traditionally waits to celebrate a jubilee. But I think the concept calls us to consider how we’re living sabbath moments in big and small ways, here and now. We need time for rest and enjoyment every week, every month, every year, in order to stay healthy and happy in our vocations.

I would love take this website‘s advice and make such a solo getaway an annual occurrence, but I know it’s hardly feasible at this stage in our parenting young children. A girl can dare to dream, but I know it’ll be a while till I get to run off with my husband like that again. Yet having dipped my toes into the joy that a jubilee brings, I know I want to make it part of the regular rhythm of our family life.

For now, I’ll settle for living little weekly sabbaths even better than I have been. There’s a lot to be gained by turning off and turning in to the things that matter most.

2 thoughts on “sabbaths & jubilees

  1. I am so happy that you and F were able to have this vacation together! What a gift! I have been thinking about this very thing A LOT as our family is nearly unable to get off the treadmill of life to find some rest. Having a new baby in the house is probably the biggest culprit (he is wonderful and all, but babies and rest do not go hand in hand 🙂 ). But aside from adjusting to life with a new family member, we are also battling the never-ending “to do” list that seems to keep getting longer. We try to take a Sabbath one day during the weekend, but I find that I end up getting more stressed (instead of more rested) after a day without addressing all of our “to dos”. I wonder if we feel this way because we have no family around to help and have not yet settled into our community. Or if it is because Bryan travels frequently and we are already wanting more quality time as a family. Perhaps we just need to change our expectations about life with kids. I am sure life is only going to continue to get busier. Though I look forward to this, can you imagine how busy things get when you have 2, 3, 4, etc…kids in sports??? Forget the weekend to do list! 🙂 I think it was Mother Teresa who was told she needed to slow down and she replied, “I will rest in heaven.” I try to keep that perspective on the days I am really tired. That being said, however, the Missionaries of Charity rest at least 4 hours a day in prayer. How can we carve this kind of “time away” into our lives as busy moms/families? I love that you have started to think about this as well. I hope you share updates on what is working and what is not working. You have inspired me to start thinking about our next “jubilee” get-away too, hopefully sans kids as well!!

  2. Thanks, Amy! You raised some great points and questions about how hard it is for parents to really take a sabbath, especially when we have young kids. This got me and F thinking more over the past few days about what we do around sabbath – what works and what doesn’t – and he made some really good points that are turning into a “part two” of this post. So thank you! And yes, I hope you and Bryan get to take a jubilee soon sans kids, too – such a good thing for our marriages!

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