“Sabbath is not a reprieve from life but the putting to an end of the restlessness that prevents deep engagement with it.”*
This past weekend, I went to dinner with my friend Kayla to celebrate her birthday. To harken in this new season of life, she decided to assign a phrase to the year that could serve as a reminder of how she hopes to learn and grow in the coming 12 months. We continued the evening by assigning phrases or words to this past year and projecting our expectations for the year to come.
One word fully encapsulates my past year: restless. On a road trip last fall, as I began telling my roommate Gabrielle about my internal quandaries over job and school, a song by the Oh Hellos played softly in the background: “See I was born a second child/ with a spirit running wild, running free/ See I was born a restless child/ And I could hear the world outside calling me.”
Oh, second child. She smiled and whispered in response, in her calming tone, knowing that this would be just the first conversation of many over the coming months. The themes discussed in that four-hour car ride became the ongoing areas of confusion for each of us that year.
Even as I learned to find contentment in this season of life, as I attempted to accept and settle into routine, I met opportunities for change. I struggled to balance joy in the present with responsible planning for the future, to balance necessary preparation with an attempt to force less-than-ideal situations. As I slowly released my own plans and expectations, I watched as the pieces over which I held no control fell into place for an upcoming year far better than any one I could have planned for myself.
I find myself now in a semester-long season of rest. Over the next four months, I will be reading dozens of books, articles, and reflections on the intersection of food and faith. I will be studying the beautiful sacrament of the Eucharist, the life-giving importance of Communion. I will be participating in the exciting work of a unique church body – a church that bakes and breaks bread together, that models itself after the earliest Christians who “broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:46).
I have in some moments felt guilty about my departure from work. I have felt selfish for giving myself a semester to focus solely on my own academic interests, for having such an open schedule, for having the time to rest, to read, to bake, to eat.
But yesterday, as I delved into my third book of the week (in utter disbelief that I even had the time to enjoy three full books in less than one week!) I read a definition of rest that freed me from my anxieties. In discussing the importance of the Sabbath, the seventh day of the creation story, it said: “God rests because there is no place God would rather be. God rests because the place where God is is the place of God’s love and concern and work, and there is simply no other place worth going to.”*
My study of food is not simply a selfish interest in eating, but a fascination with the interconnectedness of all of creation. It is a growing realization that in eating, we are constantly reminded of our daily reliance on God, on each other, on the land. It is a deep empathy for my brothers and sisters around the world who are paid dehumanizing wages in horrific work conditions so that I can easily purchase a wide array of ingredients. It is a passion for justice – justice for those who eat, justice for those who grow, justice for the land that produces.
This season of rest, this time to read, is a time to find supreme delight in the place of my love and concern and work, of God’s love and concern and work, so that I can go forth in responsible, effective activism for this justice that I so desire, that God so desires.
And thus the word I have chosen to assign my coming year is Sabbath. For I believe that “Sabbath is not a reprieve from life but the putting to an end of the restlessness that prevents deep engagement with it.”*
*all quotes from Norman Wirzba's Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating
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