Adjusting to the Speed of Life With a Sabbath Mindset
And just like that, my pre-pandemic life has returned. Where I live, restaurants have been reopening at full capacity, grocery stores no longer require masks for the fully vaccinated, and activities that were shut down and forbidden for so long have been suddenly recommissioned: parties, church, in-house gatherings, birthdays, coffees, group lunches. A few weeks ago, I was so glad for it to all be back. My friends and life began to resemble something familiar—a pace and rhythm that had not been out of the ordinary before 2020.
It was all good and fun, albeit a bit busy, until last week, when I went back to the gym for the first time.
I, like millions of other Gold’s Gym members across the globe, had canceled my membership when COVID hit my corner of the world in March 2020. After more than a year of working out in my guest room, it felt like a good time to go back. I went on a Tuesday after work. The busiest hour at the gym. I rubbed shoulders with my numerous fellow gym-goers, shared weights, waited my turn to use different machines. I didn’t think much of it while I was there but when I got home, I noticed a restlessness in me. I felt wired for the rest of the evening and even had trouble falling asleep.
The next day I wondered if while going to the gym felt like an exciting “normal” thing to do, returning to something pre-pandemic normal will probably not feel normal for some time. My anxiety had been stirred by an activity that once helped relieve it.
During COVID, I adjusted to a different pace. A slower one, with fewer people and less to do. I cooked at home, I worked from home (rather than the coffee shop), and I spent time with a small group of people. Life came to a screeching halt for us all and while it jarred me initially, I adapted. I took care of my house plants. If I traveled, it was a short distance to a campsite or to see my family.
Life simplified itself. And now that life seems to be back, my body, mind and spirit haven’t been able to keep up, as evidenced by the cold that landed me on my couch for two and a half days earlier this week.
I am not accustomed to the pace I once was, and I feel resistant to its returning.
Ironically, and divinely, I am studying to give a sermon on the Sabbath in a couple of weeks. I have never officially Sabbathed. I take time away from social media every weekend. I take days off. I do a decent job at self-care, but as I’ve been learning about the Sabbath, I realized Sabbath has not been a proper part of my rhythm. In fact, I’m not sure I even knew what Sabbath really was until I started reading about it. (Might I recommend Walter Brueggemann’s Sabbath as Resistance?)
While I won’t get into the details of what I’ve been learning here, I will say I wonder if learning about Sabbath hasn’t occurred at the exact right time. I wonder if in the midst of life potentially returning to normal—though we all know by now that can change on a dime—we are all going to be fumbling around for a new rhythm to live our lives by. We had a rhythm. It was forcibly stopped. Now, we must find a new one because too much has happened, too much has changed: our priorities, our thoughts, and beliefs about life and God, our fears, loves, and passions, our perceptions of self. Most likely, the old rhythm doesn’t fit us anymore.
Honoring the Sabbath may be just the ticket. A 24-hour period of rest and worship, which John Mark Comer defines in The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry as anything that indexes “your heart toward grateful recognition of God’s reality and goodness.” A hike, a chat with a friend, a yummy home-cooked meal, creating with your hands, thinking with your mind. I think everyone must Sabbath in a different way, but as long as you are oriented toward rest and worship, grounding, presence, and peace will be made available to you.
It took me a while to adjust to life at COVID’s slow speed. I can expect it may take even longer to adjust to pre-COVID speed. If you’ve noticed your breathing has shallowed, your anxiety has heightened, or you feel nervous about small things (like I did after the gym), you aren’t alone. The world of commerce is trying to rush us back in, but our spirits are resistant. Listen to that pushback. Slow down as you need to. Put on the brakes before a cold forces you to. We can resist, and as we fumble around for a new rhythm to live by, consider following that commandment given so long ago to the Israelites, not by the god of busy, hurry, or consumption, but by the God of Sabbath.