Thoughts from a Book Group: Some People Don't Need Sabbath

Hey folks, It's Easter Monday, which means clergy catch-up, or rest, or both. I'm still getting over being sick. So today we have a guest post of sorts, a wrap-up email I received from a good friend who leads an adult Sunday School class at his church:

We finished our Lenten study of Sabbath in the Suburbs this past Sunday. Your book was overwhelmingly well-received (we’re ready for the next one - “Sabbath in the Suburbs with Teenagers”?) We had lots of good discussion and your study questions provided good jumping-off places, not that we always needed them. Our main takeaways as a group were: (1) You can’t do and be everything, Sabbath should be the time when you’re free to admit that and be your authentic self; (2) No “J.O.Y.”; (3) God wants us to be rested and happy. Everyone liked the Sabbath hacks.

We had a really good debate about abundance vs. scarcity in our last session, that to me was one of the strongest ideas in the book. We also talked about “play” in the Bible. Remember the cute video of the Christmas story with the kids from New Zealand (“They woon’t be ixpicting that”)? I used that as an example of the playfulness of the Gospel. We really like the section about Moses as the overworked manager who doesn’t know how delegate.

I'm actually not familiar with that Christmas video. I wonder, is this the one?

Not everyone embraced the idea of setting aside a block of Sabbath time every week – a minority said their families weren’t overscheduled all the time and didn’t necessarily need a weekly respite. They didn’t seem to buy in to the idea of Sabbath as a time of rest and a religious practice, not just the former. That may be due to my limitations as a moderator, not the text.

I doubt it was him...

As I go around talking to groups, I meet folks who don't struggle for Sabbath the way many of us do. They often don't see a need because their lives have a natural balance of work and play (what's their secret?).

But I also meet people who seem to love their jobs so much that they literally work every day. A pastor of a large church admitted to me recently that he hasn't had a regular day off in several years. Vacations, yes, but not days off. And I met an imam several weeks ago who shared that Islam does not have a provision for the Sabbath like Judaism and Christianity do. In fact, he admitted he has not taken a vacation in three decades. I was astounded in both cases, but in talking to him it was clear that he was deeply committed to his work. Neither is on the verge of burnout. Both are functioning well in their jobs. Both seem to be perfectly healthy psychologically.

you-must-fall-in-love-with-your-work1And last night Robert and I watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi. (BTW: what sumptuous, simple pieces of sushi. Trip to Japan, anyone?) Here is a guy who's 85 years old and who still pushes himself (and his apprentices) to new heights in the craft. He hates it when he's not working. He only takes a day off when he has to. And as the title implies, when he's not working, he's thinking about work. Yet he's kept this pace for 75 years (yes, he started young).

What makes the difference? Are people like that just wired differently? Or have they found such a perfect intersection between their deep gladness and the world's deep hunger (thank you Buechner) that rest is not needed?

What do you think?