A ‘Non-Theist’ Likes Sabbath in the Suburbs

J writes in his review on Goodreads:

As a non-theist single guy, I didn’t expect the book would speak to me. I was surprised when it did… The takeaway for me was making explicit time for what is important to you. MaryAnn McKibben Dana points out the many ways that our lives revolve around the next thing we have to do. Whether externally imposed (jobs, family) or internally mandated (I should be more productive, what am I missing out on) we are often over committed and focussed on getting it all done.

Whether you are a person of faith or not, there are things important to each of us that we are likely not taking time for. MaryAnn makes the case that while not easy, taking that time brings rewards greater than what is given up.

As a pastor, I occupy a strange little bubble, with its own language and norms of behavior and ancient text. It’s a place that’s populated by people who are just as busy and stressed and overscheduled as anyone else. But we preach a good game about how we really should take time for things like prayer, meditation, and spiritual practices that restore us.

Not that we do them as much as we should. I get as many “yeah, right” eye-rolls from my Christian friends as from my non-Christian ones. Yes, the calls for rest and renewal, which Jews and Christians call Sabbath, are baked right into the pie. It’s just that we end up picking those little pieces out and leaving them in a pile on the edge of the plate. (As a pastor, I also play with metaphor a lot. Whaddya gonna do.)

Someone’s also taking sabbath time.

But there’s something going on outside the bubble, in the broader culture. We see it in organizations like Reboot with its Sabbath Manifesto containing broad, winsome suggestions like “Nurture your health,” “drink wine,” and “find silence.”

We see it in articles like “The Busy Trap” and “The Joy of Quiet,” both of which bounced around the Internet among religious and non-religious alike.

We see it in Gretchen Rubin’s latest book, Happier at Home, with its chapter reflecting on how we spend our time. (In fact, Gretchen began her “happiness project” following the realization that the days are long but the years are short.)

I am gratified when I hear that folks from a different background resonate with themes in the book and find inspiration in it. I’m also not too surprised; I wrote with lots of different audiences in mind. Yes, there’s a bit o’ Jesus in it. But there’s also homebrew and Legos and Trader Joe’s pumpkin bread and snark. I’m a pastor, but I’m also a heretic.

I think of the book as an exercise of translation and transcendence. Translation: rendering the ancient language of Sabbath in terms that anyone can understand. And transcendence: demonstrating the ways that the need for mindfulness and restful joy goes way beyond any Jewish or Christian bubbles.

So thank you, J, for reading.

Oh, and T-minus three days to book launch on Amazon. Order here or here.

About MaryAnn

pastor, writer, haphazard knitter
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