I need a rest. It feels like every day there is some new reminder of just how low my reserves have gotten; between the loss of our April vacation and the post-viral fatigue that weighed me down all year, I feel tired in a way that goes well beyond joints and muscles and even mental alertness. Teaching has worn me out this year. Living has worn me out. I feel spiritually tired.
I'm realizing this morning that I need not to go to meeting for worship today.
This will be the third week in a row I won't have made it to meeting. That is so not like me. When I think about that in terms of my relationship with my community, and especially with the fact of my serving on Ministry and Worship, I get a tight little knot in my belly.
But it's not changing anything for me, that little knot. I'm working very hard this year--I've had to work very hard this year--to learn the difference between being acting faithfully and allowing myself to be co opted by gray-faced duty. I'm a past-master at convincing myself to take on and keep up with commitments. I suck at laying things down, largely because I have a terrible phobia about letting people down.
Caring for people is fine. Putting a concern for what they will think of you above honest discernment of what is and what is not my job... that's not so good.
Why do I go to meeting, anyway? So that people will think I'm All That? Surely not.
I know that part of what makes my spiritual life tick is my connection to other people, to members of my community. I find my link to Spirit, Pagan as well as Quaker, in the eyes and hands and faces of other human beings as often as not. God speaks to me in the intimate, loving connections I have with others, and I know it. So connecting with humans in honesty, in openness, in love, that connects me to what I most love and need that goes beyond the merely human.
More, I know that sometimes I can carry some of that Light with me; when I am open to Spirit and to a community at the same time, we all get fed. It's great. And it's what I've come to hope for on Sunday mornings, getting ready for meeting for worship.
But there's this other thing that I also need, and somehow it is, for me at least, more about being alone than with others. Peter used a phrase yesterday, otium divina I think he called it--divine idleness. And when he spoke those words, a spark passed into me, and I knew that those words fit what I need, what I'm lacking right now.
I am starved for divine idleness--for "unproductive" time spent alone, listening to rain run down a window pane or to leaves talking to themselves in the yard. I need to be empty for a little while, not filled with busy-ness or with community. Not even a spiritual community I love.
My tanks are on empty not so much for physical rest, though I need that, too, as for spiritual rest. I need to stop for a while.
I remember, two or three years ago, talking with J. H. at my meeting about how over-busy teaching sometimes made my life. The grading load on weekends, the feeling of being absolutely used-up at the end of each day... Sometimes I felt that attending meeting for worship was a luxury I didn't begin to have time for.
J. asked me what would happen if I just set aside a day and declared it to be Sabbath, and kept it.
Now, J. is someone I've heard called a "professional Quaker"--not in the sense of getting paid for it, so much as in the sense of someone who has given her spiritual life and leadings the kind of attention most Americans reserve for questions of secular career development. This is not to negate what I do--at the moment, teaching high school English--as my own spiritual leading. But she's someone who has a life well-arranged around her spiritual life and needs. I take her seriously, and I know she has worked a long, hard time to get where she is, where her life can be so well-ordered. And I take it that creating a life similarly ordered around spiritual leading is very much my business, too.
No, she doesn't have a stack of essays and exams to grade for Monday every week. No, she doesn't necessarily get it what the ebbs and flows of my own week and school year are. But that doesn't make her wrong.
What if I did keep a Sabbath? What would that be like?
Here's how the question is coming to me today. Today, I'm thinking less in terms of meeting attendance, important though that is, than I am of honoring what I'm sensing are my deep needs of the spirit this week.
As I said, I'm feeling most the need for that emptiness, that otium divina.
And I think that a real sabbath is one in which my spirit is open to the promptings of That Spirit, speaking to me. Unmediated by my expectations, narcissistic little worries, shoulds, oughts, or want-tos. What is God asking me to set aside for Her today?
Oddly enough, I don't think grading student papers will disrupt my sabbath. Oddly enough, though worship in my meeting is normally the clearest route I have in a week to communion with that Spirit, this week, I'm thinking that's not the case. This week, I think that true sabbath is about staying home and quietly, calmly, getting things done for the week--puttering my way back to another long week at work, rather than moving like clockwork through a First Day ordered for maximum efficiency in all things: worship, grading, prep.
I wish my life were simpler and quieter, or that I were somehow more energetic or efficient and could attend my meeting every week, year in, year out, without fail. I don't seem to have that life, though, and I don't see a way to get to it.
Sometimes, Sunday morning is the only day of the week I get to ask the question, "What is the Spirit of Life nudging me to do to honor my relationship with it?" It may not be the sabbath J. meant or I fantasize about, but asking that question and honoring the answer, week by week... that may be what it really means, to me, to keep the sabbath.
Right. So. No hurry to get to meeting, this morning. And probably, the kids will be getting their tests back tomorrow after all.