Sunday, March 24, 2013
Sabbath In The Suburbs
Sabbath in the Suburbs:
A Family's Experiment with Holy Time
by MaryAnn McKibben Dana
Published by Chalice Press, 2012
This is not just a book for "religious" families (of any denomination), it is a book for anyone who feels overwhelmed, stressed or exhausted by the pressures and time constraints that modern life can place on families in the modern world, and for families who want to re-connect with what is really important to them.
For most of us that would be finding time to devote to our family, friends, and also time for ourselves.
MaryAnn and her husband made a conscious decision to find time which they could specifically devote to their growing family, even though they were already struggling to find time to cram in all their committments as it was. Things seemed to be spiralling out of control into a non-stop, frantic whirl of busy-ness, which they felt was impossible and unhealthy to sustain over a long period of time. They wanted to find time to enjoy parenting as a vocation and not just as an obligation.
They tried a number of different strategies to "make" the Sabbath work as a day devoted to the principles of family time and honouring God, with varying degrees of success, though there were always elements of great value in every approach they tried. The traditional Jewish observances of abstaining from anything which could even remotely be described as work, including turning on lights, cooking or tearing sheets of toilet paper - are very clear-cut and may seem overly restrictive to Christian families and she debates how much work would be allowable from a Christian perspective as she pores over books about the Jewish Sabbath observances.
Even their attempts to find an appropriate day are fraught; Sundays prove difficult due to Mary Ann's regular commitments as a Presbyterian Church pastor, so they choose to make Saturday their special day. But what happens when planning conflicts occur or when emergencies supervene? It does not happen often, but does require a rethink of the purpose and meaning of their Sabbath.
Month by month we follow their activities as a family, seeing what works and what does not. Carving out special time for Sabbath does mean some tasks round the house simply get put on the back-burner for extended periods of time, which can cause its own stress.
This is a book about finding time to be busy "being", not just busy "doing". It is not so much what you do, as how you perceive what you are doing - sabbath observance is also a state of mind, not just a day or a set of activities.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable and long overdue book which I can see myself re-reading regularly, and as MaryAnn wisely observes, it's never too late to start finding time to "be".