It turns out that the dystopian novelists are right – the world really is coming to an end. At least according to the UN’s experts on climate change. If we continue at our current rate, by 2040 (I’ll be 72 years old. How old will you be?) there will be global food shortages and millions of people living on the coast will be displaced by rising ocean levels. The report released by the U.S. on the high news day of Black Friday said much the same thing.
Meanwhile, President Trump sent troops to the front with Mexico to engage the advancing army of Hondurans, Guatemalans, and Mexicans armed with diaper bags. They are such a mighty force that they walked all the way from their home towns; so fierce that they don’t need guns or missile launchers. But it’s a fair fight since we sold all of our weapons to Saudi Arabia who kills journalists.
My dog sits in my favorite armchair and barks. She’s alerts me to the car turning at our corner, the jogger, and the man trudging down the sidewalk carrying his belongings in two grocery store plastic bags. I assume he’s spent the night in our church basement as a guest of our Monday night PADS shelter.
That same dog grabbed a box of raisins from the pantry on Thanksgiving morning. While I puttered in the kitchen making the best pecan pie ever, she ingested what could have been a lethal number of dried grapes. A number of years ago she ate two pounds of Frango mints and a bag of Hershey kisses. That time she had to spend a night at the emergency vet clinic (costing me a winter vacation).
We face real threats. But our president barks at the wrong things.
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.
I’m on vacation while the world is going to hell. I come back from breakfast and learn that Trump has banned immigrants and refugees from certain “Muslim” countries. I wake up from a nap and discover he’s fired the Attorney General for opposing his ban. My friends are protesting at O’Hare airport while I kayak on Lake Chapala and hike to the capilla. I see a boy on the street wearing a white t-shirt with black block letters that read: “Tuck Frump.” I laugh and then apologize.
I want to be informed and I want my vacation. I want to speak out about Trump’s follies and I want to just watch dog videos on Facebook. It’s strange to not be painting my own placard to carry at a demonstration or listening to updated reports from NPR, and it’s a relief. I don’t want to hide from what is happening. I don’t want to stick my head in the sand and pretend it will just get better. But I don’t want give Trump permission to set up residence in my soul.
The next few years will be long ones. There will be many demonstrations to attend, letters to write, calls to make, articles to read, information to vet, conversations to engage, money to send. Even if Trump resigns or is impeached, Pence is waiting. I suspect he will be harder to resist because he will appear more “presidential.”
Resistance will be a marathon not a sprint. We will need to find moments to breath deep, to laugh long and hard, to enjoy those we love, to seek out joy. Sabbath was God’s gift to the Hebrew people. God gave the Sabbath so that they would remember that they weren’t under Pharoah’s thumb anymore. Sabbath rest may be a profound act of resistance for us.