Ancient Antidote for a Modern Malaise


I am exhausted. I’m run down. I feel my muscles slump into nothingness and my bones ache in ways and places that I didn’t know existed. I’m only 46 years old, yet the women that I see looking back at me from the mirror these days feels much older than the reflected image would suggest.
Six years ago my marriage of 21 years ended, and although I felt the wind of life had been knocked out of me, I had no more time to wallow in self-pity. Two teenage kids, car repairs and life in general compelled my weary 163-centimetre frame into a compelling beat upwind that I couldn’t control.
That despairing moment dropped me full tilt into a race for my life that I could never have imagined. Although I was on a salary and wouldn’t earn a dollar more for working longer hours, I couldn’t stop my compulsion to work overtime. There was a drum beating within—fear—that I couldn’t quiet.
My inner voice was telling me that hard work and my over-achiever fortitude would bring financial success, so I couldn’t stop myself. Perhaps, in reality, it was my way of dealing with my distraught self and “single” circumstances. What scares me, though, is that I’m having a hard time shaking this reaction even though my now somewhat older, wiser self tells with aches and mental weariness that I need to.
Lately, too, I’ve become concerned about my physical health. How can I physically keep going at this exhaustive rate?
One person in three is diagnosed with cancer. I wonder—having three sisters, if I confess the morbid truth—will it be me? My grandmother, my aunt and my dear father were all taken by the dreaded disease. I know there are things I could do to mitigate against such an eventuality, but my commitment to business keeps me from doing what I know I should.

And I know that in this I’m not alone. I meet people every day who are going either into or out of this zone. How do you get off this merry-go-round? We all are too busy, and we’ve been hoodwinked into believing what constitutes success and a happy life. But within my head is a small voice telling me there is a way out of the rat race, and it’s getting louder.
Not that my life has always been all haste and waste. There were quieter times when I did imbibe the perfume of roses. On my back, on a few carefree autumn days, I’ve watched the dance of leaves cascading elegantly to the ground. I’ve sipped herbal tea at quaint cafes and danced with my teenage children in our simple living room. Such a quieter life is beckoning me. I feel it my bones and tired feet.

How to get there is the question. Where is that quiet rest? Let me tell you.

Lately I’ve found myself holding more tightly to an ancient ritual of rest. I believe I would’ve worked myself into an early grave but for this legacy of my teens. You see, each week, I observe a spiritual rest day—the Sabbath. I’ve not always done so perfectly throughout my life, I must confess, but it has remained a constant through the intervening years regardless of what is going on in my crazy little life.

I didn’t invent this rest day. A friend introduced the concept to me when I was young and carefree and not so much in need of this day of rest. The Sabbath is biblical and you can learn about it by reading the first book in the Bible, Genesis. It’s also a Jewish custom, albeit not kept in the same regard as it was when instituted so many thousands of years ago, except perhaps by the most Orthodox Jews. In short, the Sabbath is a day set aside for celebration and resting. It’s a day when all the activities that would normally occupy our minds are set aside.

And then there’s the day that precedes the Sabbath, ensuring that when it finally arrives, it is, indeed, restful. Friday is a day of preparation—a day where all the work that would have normally been performed on the Sabbath is completed.

I’ve realised that the preparation day is critical to my enjoyment of the Sabbath. My failure to properly prepare, with the consequence that the Sabbath has still been busy, has inhibited my receiving the complete blessing God intended the Sabbath to be. If I really want to have this day of rest that I need, then I have to plan for and make a commitment to it—something I should have figured a lot sooner if wanted that total rest and spiritual renewal.

But while my weary body tells me I need a day of rest each week, more than that, I need the spiritual renewal it brings.

And if you can learn from my experience and explore the possibilities of Sabbath-keeping, you, too, will find complete rest for your body—and soul.

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