Last week as my news feed swirled with reactions to the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, the speeding up of climate change, and the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, I felt like I was reading the first chapter of a dystopian novel. Is this what it’s like to hover at the beginning of the end of the world? My chest tightened and my head felt heavy, as if someone had opened my skull and poured in concrete.
And then, scrolling through Facebook, I saw an ad for a used kayak. A red one. I imagined myself gliding through the water, surrounded by the sounds of rustling trees, birdsong and humming insects. I realized I hadn’t gone kayaking all summer. So I went. I rented a kayak (a red one) at Busse Lake. I paddled by resting ducks and cormorants drying their wings in the setting sun. I admired the regal posture of an egret and noticed the yellows and oranges of changing leaves. I breathed in the stillness of the glassy lake and let it quiet my soul.
When I got back in my car the world was still a mess. Nothing had changed. Except me. I felt renewed, recharged, at peace. There is work to be done. We need to address the pressing concerns of our time. But not at the expense of joy. Sabbath is much more than a day of the week. Sabbath is God’s gift of time when we set aside our worry and our work to enjoy all that God has made. In Sabbath time we practice trusting that God’s love for us does not rely on our accomplishments and that our future is in God’s hands.
There isn’t a lot I do just for the fun of it.
Remember swinging? You pumped and pumped your legs but didn’t get anywhere. What do you do that’s like that?
I just finished National Novel Writing Month. A not for profit of the same name encourages people to sign up to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. “What happens if you don’t finish?” friends often asked when I lamented how many words behind I had slipped. “What do you get if you finish?” they asked when I celebrated a great day of writing. The answer to both was “nothing.” No great honors for winning, no fines for not finishing. It was just for the fun of it.
I’m sure it’s been good for my writing to put butt in chair and write most days. I’m sure my “sticktoittiveness” muscles got stronger. But the real reason, at least in the end, that I stuck to it is that it was fun.
Most of what I do has a “so that” attached. I exercise so that I can get in shape. I cook so that I can eat. Doing something just for the pure joy in it is the definition of play, and a critical part of Sabbath. It’s what children know how to do.
I want to finish my novel and go back and edit it. I’d like to see where the story takes me. I do have the occasional fantasy about what it would be like to have it published and be on the New York Times best seller list and get interviewed by Oprah…but if that’s why I continued to work on the story then I would have quit long ago. The “who do you think you are?” demons would have silenced me right from the beginning. Doing something just for the fun of it gives you permission to do it because it doesn’t have lead to anything meaningful.