Whatever is foreseen in joy
Must be lived out from day to day,
Vision held open in the dark
By our ten thousand days of work.
Harvest will fall the barn; for that
The hand must ache, the face must sweat.
And yet no leaf or grain is filled
By work of ours; the field is tilled
And left to grace. That we may reap,
Great work is done while we're asleep.
When we work well, a Sabbath mood
Rests on our day, and finds it good.
Great friends share books and authors. In fact, I find that a grounding tether or trust often secures me to someone when writing is shared and discussed. One of the most distinct culprits of this in my world is my friend Alexa. Over the years, I have mentioned her. Usually because of a quote, book, author that I have befriended through her. Wendell Berry is no stranger in that realm. Mr. Berry is a lifelong farmer in Kentucky who for decades spent Sundays wandering his farm, pondering God and rest and writing poetry. There's something about the practicality of his poetry that just seem so honest to me. He writes what he knows--but transforms it into something Holy.
And I find myself wondering if that's what Sabbathing does to us. Does it take our work, our relationships, our time, our reading, our chores, and transform them into something Holy?
Sabbath is for rest. God took His day to stop--not because of exhaustion--but perhaps because by examining the work and labor, it transformed it into something deeper, truer. I wonder sometimes if life is not best lived in the moment but truly marked in our souls by pondering it after. CS Lewis said, "a pleasure is not fully grown until it is remembered." I have to agree. Moments are pleasurable. A taste is pleasurable. But the memory of it, solidifying permanent connection, creates an essence--a scent which one can continually point to as a thread in their lives.
Something about this winter has caused me to sit back and reevaluate my rhythms. How I've set up my life and routines. I have been taking stock of the value and intention with which I am stewarding my day and it's been disappointing and eye opening. Too much television, not enough reading, too little silence, more than enough dessert.
And I find myself making quarter turns, not towards perfection or idyllic lifestyles, but towards presence. Or more accurately....Presence.
I always wish to see beyond the means to the end. Jesus is not the means. He is the end. Thus, rhythms, actions, thoughts, prayers that draw me to Him are not the thing to be repeated for results. They are to be shared and recognized but not glorified. We should always pray to see the forest for the trees when we share helpful thoughts or practices. Legalism dies when I see Jesus' presence as my end goal. I think the ethereality of His presence appropriately and necessarily inhibits us from getting to write a rulebook of ways to love Him better. We love Him better in the moments we remember Him. However we choose to pursue that.
Maybe that's the thing Wendell Berry understood. He took time to pursue the Presence of Jesus. And in that, he understood that his labor was better than he ever imagined it could be because through came an understanding of grace. Knowing that regardless of his efforts on his farm, the earth was controlled by the Creator. There was rest in knowing he worked hard because he saw the Lord through it. Not because by working harder he was given more crops or money or glory. By his labor he saw growth and death and newness and desolation and came to better understand himself and thus love our Lord dearer.
The earth is good because it exists--not because it exists in a particular state. That is a grand truth to what the Father says over us. He loves us because we exist. Because in our essence is the scent of the Creator. And joy comes when we choose to breathe...and accept our essence. Some days those breaths are weary sighs, others they are gasps between gregarious laughter, and even others they are slow and methodical.
I pray for better understanding and practicing of Sabbath. Resting is hard work. Stopping takes effort. My hands clench my routines tightly, but I'm asking for every effort to be for His glory and my good. Better to have that in my life than anything else.