Saturday, June 16, 2012

Shabbat Shalom

Life is tiring here. We work long hours and 6 day weeks. Most of us our up around 6am and work doesn't finish until 5pm... sometimes later. It's really good stuff, but exhausting. On top of that is the emotional drain. The percentage of kids that survive heart surgery is very high, but that doesn't mean it isn't scary. Without these surgeries most of the kids only have a few more years of low quality life to live. Sometimes only a few more months or days. It is certainly miraculous to see them change from weak, tired kids, to boisterous, energetic ones after the surgery.

But how do you communicate that to a worried mother? How do you tell her that this risky operation is the best option. We went to the hospital yesterday to visit our Gaza families. You can tell what stage a kid is at in the process by looking at their mothers. Mothers whose children are waiting for surgery are tense and nervous. Mothers whose children are in the ICU after surgery look exhausted and anxious. The children are hooked up to dozens of monitors and tubes making them look even more helpless. Those mothers look like they want to cry at any moment. Mothers back in the children's ward after surgery are slightly more relaxed. Depending on how their child is doing, they feel more at ease chatting and smiling. They try to put the other mothers who are waiting at ease. We walk in to the midst of this and try to bring a little encouragement. A smile. A touch on the arm. Raised arms to heaven. Inshallah everything will be ok. Inshallah. God willing.

By the time we get to Saturday, we are desperate for a break. Not because we don't love these families, but because we do. We love them so much we feel this pain and nervousness with them and for them. Saturday is our day of absolute nothingness. We don't work. At all. After that, what you do is up to you. Personally, I take Saturday off in a couple other ways. I don't do my soccer work out- I have 6 other days for that- and I don't study for the GRE. Not doing those two things alone make the day more relaxing.

But the true essence of Shabbat/Sabbath is not in what we don't do. One of my very smart friends here who studies Hebrew was explaining to us last night what the essence of Shabbat is. It is not simply what we do not do. It is what we do instead. You see, when God rested on the seventh day, the word there doesn't indicate simply stopping. Instead it has a positive quality to it. The action of rest. The action of pursuing rest. So as we stop for Shabbat, it is not so much about what we cease to do, it's what we do instead. We seek rest in God's word. We seek rest in fellowshipping with other believers at church. We seek rest in sleeping because God made our bodies to need a break. Make sense? It's a cool idea. I like it a lot because it makes me focus less on what I'm not going to do today, but what I will pursue instead. What I will choose to do to pursue the rest of God fully on this day of the week he has set apart as different.

Last year when I came, I was really skeptical about this idea of complete Shabbat. American culture doesn't really support taking a day off from work. My homework load alone made it seem impossible. But as I lived here for 3 months, I was challenged to give it a try. We certainly enjoyed having a full 24 hours off of work here, maybe it would be possible in the States too. So this past school year from 6pm Saturday evening to 6pm Sunday evening, I didn't work. I rested. I don't say this to brag, but to offer this as a challenge, just as I was challenged by the community here. Do you take a Sabbath rest? It doesn't matter if it is Saturday or Sunday or another day if that works better for you. But do you take an entire day off to rest. God has given this time to us as a gift. I found that as I did this, my work was more efficient. Yeah, there were some Saturday mornings I was up at 9am to get my homework done that day instead of waiting til Sunday. Yeah it was scary during finals week, especially when I had 2 exams on Monday. But is it possible? Oh yeah. And the longer I went, the better I was able to budget my time and get stuff done. And finally, when I got to my Sabbath, I wasn't fretting about the work. I was able to fully pursue rest.

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