Last Saturday, after a noontime potluck, some friends and I lingered at the table. The conversation flowed with easy companionship as our children circled us in a game of tag. At one point, my friend’s son Nico, stopped by his mother’s side. At age five, he was the youngest of the assembled children. Leaning against her slightly, he whispered something in her ear. She nodded and murmured words of reassurance. As he smiled and turned to resume play, another boy ran up and tagged him. “You’re IT!” the boy called out as he danced away.
Nico’s whole body contorted with frustration. “No, I’m not!” he insisted. “I’m not IT. I was on a pause!”
The adults at the table burst out laughing.
“‘On a pause.’ How great is that!” I exclaimed. “I want to be on a pause!”
I know it’s a tired refrain, but it’s a tune I hear repeated by everyone: Life is going too fast and the effort to keep up is taking its toll. I’ve turned myself inside out trying to simplify, cut back, slow down, and just say “no,” but no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to stem the tide. Life keeps flooding in and pulling me under. I’d love a chance to resurface and catch my breath.
My friend Erin, a wife and mother who works part time, faces these same issues. Her weeks can get long and her spirits overwhelmed by the herculean effort it takes to keep everything running smoothly. But, I’ve come to understand during the five months of our friendship that there is one big difference between Erin and me: Every Saturday–from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday–she observes the fourth commandment and honors the Sabbath in the tradition of her Seventh Day Adventist faith. She practices a day of rest.
“What does that mean exactly?” I asked her early on.
She explained that on the Sabbath her focus is centered on mindful activities with friends and family–a shared meal, a hike in the mountains, a bike ride around the neighborhood. A day to simply be without being drawn into the hecticness of the surrounding world. A day to “reflect upon the Creator and rest from all our busyness so we can truly focus on the finer points of life,” she told me. A time to renew her faith and her energy.
“I look forward to Sabbath each week,” she added.
“I bet,” I thought.
Over these past months, as we’ve shared the daily ins and outs of life, occasionally Erin has gently hinted that I might find some benefit in taking a day off now and then. She’ll invite me to join her on a Sabbath outing in the park, or another week she will kindly include me in plans for a Saturday afternoon hike. I have yet to accept her thoughtful nudgings towards rest. My family’s springtime schedule has been packed full, and each weekend I can hardly get caught up before life tags me again and shouts in my ear, “You’re IT!” As a result, family time and rest have been woefully shortchanged.
But the other day, I read a passage that asked: “Is your life driving you or are you driving your life?” Since it’s been quite a while since I had time to stop and evaluate where my choices are leading me, I realized that at some point along the way I became the passenger on this journey. Which is why the more I get to know Erin, the more I envy the built-in, one-a-week opportunity she has to recenter her life. I’m not necessarily suggesting that we all need to convert to Seventh Day Adventism, but I have come to see that there is great benefit in injecting some mandatory down time into the weekly schedule. A time outside the demands of daily life in which to regroup and make sure you are still living the life you want to live, and are being the person you want to be according to your personal rules and principles. A time to wrestle the steering wheel back from life, so to speak. Figure out not only who’s driving, but what your destination is.
It’s no coincidence that Erin’s son happens to be Nico. It isn’t hard to surmise that he learned the concept of being “on a pause” from his family’s weekly commitment to keeping a set of parentheses around their Sabbaths. Even at a young age, he understands that within the frenzied activity of a game of tag with the older kids, it is necessary–of the upmost importance even–for him to pause and check in with his mom. To lean into her maternal strength, hear her words of reassurance, and rest a moment in her love before dashing off again.
I think we all need that–a pause now and then. Some time each week–each day even–to check in with ourselves, check in with those we love, check in with God. Instead of trying to build a dam against the relentless flow of life, I think I need to accept that life in this day and age can’t be slowed. Instead of wearing myself out in a constant battle against the current, perhaps I need to crawl up on the bank and declare to the world, “I AM ON A PAUSE.” Take some time to catch my breath and find my center so I have the strength to navigate this life of mine. Most importantly, I want to practice the faith of pausing so I don’t become so distracted that I miss the finer points of life: the bobbing heads of my children as they lead me up a hiking trail, the quiet of evening settling over my back yard, my husband’s hand in mine, or a child’s funny turn of phrase in the midst of a table full of friendship.