Learning to Stay on the Boat
We skimmed lightly over the lake on a perfect day. All the ingredients were in place for a morning that would become a cherished summer memory. Yet even as we laughed and talked, my restless thoughts kept darting to all the things undone at home. I mentally reviewed my ever growing to-do list.
During that week I was starting a new teaching session of private music lessons, having my daughter's senior pictures taken, planning for our school year, and preparing for a family gathering of three generations in our home. What was I doing out on this boat?!
Yes, those were stolen moments. A precious interlude I nearly missed.
"You're on the lake now, " I told myself. "No matter how much you think about the phone calls, the paperwork, and the planning, you won't accomplish one thing. Meanwhile you'll let the gift of these few hours slip away. Be thankful and enjoy this while it lasts. Soon enough you'll be back at work."
It's easy to do, isn't it? To be placed in a setting that delights us, with people we love, and suddenly realize we aren't really there. Our thoughts wander off to our work or our worries. If we don't catch ourselves, we are left empty handed. On the one hand we have squandered opportunities to savor life, and on the other lost productivity.
When we are off-duty, it's crucial to train our minds to be present where our bodies are so we can receive the refreshment and the life-giving relationships God is trying to give to us.
As we sailed that day, I felt him nudging me to be a good steward of the joy that was there for the taking. He gave me a picture of myself jumping off the boat, swimming to shore, and walking the twenty miles home so I could send messages and mop a floor. I laughed to myself at the ridiculousness of the image.
Resolutely I turned my attention to the lake, to my friends and my kids. I took in the beautiful blue sky and turned my face toward the sun as a light breeze cooled the August air. We nibbled on watermelon and sweet strawberries while we shared stories from our summer. In two's and three's we took turns jumping into the water and posing for pictures. Gradually, contentment replaced my earlier preoccupation.
When I got home a few hours later, the work was there waiting for me. But as I entered the whirlwind of activity that has continued to swirl in my home over the last two weeks, I carried the peace of that day with me. I can still close my eyes and recapture the freedom of being out on the water with people I care about. The memories blow fresh breezes through my harried thoughts.
And I realize that is the gift of Sabbath. God invites us to take time to reconnect with him and with one another, and to rediscover the joy of moving at a slower pace. Yes, there is obedience and trust involved in God's direction to take a sabbath. But it is meant to be a gift, not a burden.
In the creation account, God sets an example for mankind of rest after work. (Genesis 2:2-3) He blessed that seventh day and set it apart for us.
Though God's people struggled with the purpose and practice of Sabbath throughout their history, Jesus made it clear that God's intent was for our good. "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath," he reminds those who were focused on the rules rather than the spirit of the day. Rest renews us. Time away from our tasks helps us gain perspective.
I learned that day on the lake that when I am blessed to be on a sailboat with friends on a beautiful summer day, my heart and mind need to stay on the boat until we dock.
In other words, when we are given the opportunity to commune with God, we should be fully present in the stillness. If we are playing tennis with friends, reading to our kids, or on a date with our spouse, we should make the most of every moment. When a quiet nature trail or a stunning mountain view is ours to enjoy, it is wise to give it our full attention, to drink in the beauty of creation.
I am fairly certain that the only rest we will regret is the rest we refuse. Friends, my hope for you is that you are able to receive and enjoy the Sabbath that comes your way, no matter the day of the week. Let it fill you with thankfulness, peace, and laughter. And no matter how insistently duty calls, stay on the boat until the ride is over!