Not a Myth After All

I remember hearing of the narwhal for the first time in college. A roommate claimed it was her favorite animal. Another friend teased that to play the game we had to choose a real animal. My roommate stood by her choice, adamantly insisting that the narwhal is real.

The existence of the narwhal has been volleyed back and forth because of its resemblance to a unicorn, which though the national animal of Scotland is mythical. The narwhal has a nine-foot off-center spiral tusk, which is actually a tooth protruding from its head. Infrequent sightings in nature and frequent sightings in fables and films like Elf help perpetrate the belief that this mysterious creature is a myth. In fact, it lives in arctic waters and escapes its predators by swimming into spaces between ice floes where a killer whale cannot follow because it would get its fin stuck.

The tusk itself is mysterious. It’s an anomaly as teeth go and scientists are freezing in pursuit of the knowledge of what it’s for. On our last visit to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science a delightful docent staffing a cart under a giant fin whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling enticed us over to her cart by wielding a genuine narwhal tusk, and she did not disappoint. By the end of our private lesson about the narwhal I was blinking away tears at the majesty of it all. And here’s where we get into Sabbath. Did you know that a tusk grows for six days and rests for one? This Sabbath thing is woven deeply into the enamel of the way things are. The Wisdom of it beckons, Life! Measured out, pressed down, spilling over!

A consistent Sabbath practice has been years in the making for me. My first exposure to the idea of an intentional Sabbath was in graduate school and I remember grasping many a Sunday for something that felt so elusive it must be a myth. A low point found me in my kitchen after an epic row during which someone fell off of a chair angrily scraping rejected lunch scraps into the pail irreverently muttering Sabbath, my patootie (edited version). After that, things started to come together and I have unearthed three nuggets worth more than gold to me.

Prepare. Everything hangs on this point. If I do not create the space for Sabbath to come to me, she won’t do it. This means that Saturday is domestic day. In between meetings and/or visits with friends, my family and I from the biggest to the smallest get ready. We do laundry (no more than two loads); water the plants; change the shavings in the hamster cage; one of three beds gets a fresh set of sheets; take out the trash and recycling; complete one home improvement project (if any); shop for food staples; bake something yummy (maybe); wash the dishes; respond to any pressing email; gather books to read, music and a message to listen to; and bathe the children. At the end of the day we light a couple of unscented candles to welcome the Sabbath and snuggle up to read something sacred before we go to bed.

Shalom. The word means peace, the unimaginable kind that trickles wholeness and thriving into every crevice of life. It is not conjured but cultivated. This day is for leaning into shalom. To do that, I turn off the wireless on my devices and don’t open my computer. I read and meditate. I get outside. I have tea with a friend and we talk grace and glory and scrape at the underside of things. I listen, and prayer is response to it all, a breathing in and out all day long.

Repeat. Sabbath mercies are new every week. Wendell Berry writes, “Here by luck or grace she may find rest, which she has been seeking all along. Sometimes by the time’s flaws and her own, she fails. And then by luck or grace she will be given another day to try again, to go maybe yet farther before again she must stop.” Keeping Sabbath is a cycle; perfection is never the goal. Honestly, I wouldn’t want to perfect it because then I would cease to need it. And grace in the moment of need is what good news is made of.

Sister,May the Lord bless you and keep you. May you see falling stars and hear children sing. May you find rest for your soul and touch the robe of God.”[1] Amen.

Where have you observed Sabbath woven into the way things are?

21 Comments

  1. M'Lynn April 20, 2014

    This is so timely for me! My husband and I were just discussing the importance af protecting Sunday from the business of life. I have so much to say I’m gonna start preparing for my grove post today! Thanks for sharing your best practices.

    1. Kimberly Todd April 21, 2014

      I’m so glad. And I will be looking for your thoughts on Friday at the Grove.

  2. M'Lynn April 20, 2014

    Oh. To answer your question… I haven’t seen Sabbath woven into the way things are lately, and I’m deeply disturbed by it. I see the world stomping on God’s command to keep the Sabbath day holy and I’m grieving because of it. We’re missing out on something special when we miss out on keeping the Sabbath day holy. The problem lies in the subjectivity we’ve assigned to this particular command. Stealing, cheating and lying…those things are pretty objective and it’s easy to see when we’ve broken God’s commands not to do those things. How does one observe the Sabbath in a way that’s pleasing to God and not turn it into stinky legalism? That’s a question I want to answer as I process this topic. I think we’ll all answer it a little differently. I’m so interested!

    1. Kimberly Todd April 21, 2014

      I agree. I’ve thought on this, too. Why is the Sabbath the one command that we scrape up off of the moral floor and toss out? I think you’re onto something with the idea that it’s because it’s not as measurable as the others. What does it mean to keep it holy? How do I keep from hewing out broken cisterns and making the ordinance my stay and trust rather than a pathway to the presence of God? One thing certain, how to keep Sabbath is not prescriptive.

  3. Elisa April 21, 2014

    “Keeping Sabbath is a cycle; perfection is never the goal. Honestly, I wouldn’t want to perfect it because then I would cease to need it. And grace in the moment of need is what good news is made of.”  I love this quote, Kim.  Thanks for sharing your journey of how your sabbath came to be so sacred.  Preparing is the part I need to work on.  I’ll have to think about how I’ve seen it woven into life and think a lot more on what it looks to be woven into my life.  This is one of my home assignment focal points. 

  4. Kimberly Todd April 21, 2014

    An excellent focus for an HA. Sabbath is both universal and deeply personal. Here’s to noticing and integrating.

  5. Amy Young April 21, 2014

    I can’t wait for a post that’s coming up later this week?!!! How is that for tacky :)? Kim, I love your thoughts here and the ways you push, nudge, invite us back to ourselves and to God.

    1. Kimberly Todd April 21, 2014

      You can’t not know what you know, right? My interest in piqued. Will I know it when I see it? And, thanks for your kind words.

  6. Linda April 21, 2014

    The rythmn of our week hinges on Sabbath, an anchor for us in our busy full days. Reflection of the days past and anticipation of the coming Sabbath is a joy. God knows us so well and what we need when. Thank you for sharing your own reflections.

    1. Kimberly Todd April 21, 2014

      An anchor, yes. A point both to look back to and to look forward to. Thanks for chiming in!

  7. Shelly Miller April 22, 2014

    Oh, oh, oh, I am waving my hand over here. I know of the narwhal. Only because oddly, it was included as one of the animals in a pack of children’s cards my kids used to use to play concentration. But the added information you gave here is a gift. I love the way you tied growing the tusk to Sabbath, beautiful. And yes, as you’ll discover in my guest post here later this week, Sabbath is a regular part of my life. I can’t imagine my week without it now.

    1. Kimberly Todd April 22, 2014

      It’s all coming together now from Amy’s earlier comment. Welcome to VA, Shelly. We’re happy to have you here and I am very much looking forward to your post later this week.

      If you get the narwhal pair of cards are they worth more than the others? =)

      1. Amy Young April 22, 2014

        If this comment had a “like” … I’d like it 🙂

  8. Brittany April 23, 2014

    I appreciate you sharing how you prepare for Sabbath. I think I’ve been lacking the preparation part. I get to the Sabbath and realize my son has no clean underwear. Or there’s no food in the house. Or some other catastrophe that interrupts the rhythm of rest.

    1. Kimberly Todd April 24, 2014

      Exactly. There must be food in the kitchen and underwear in the drawers because these things cannot wait until Monday. We won’t ever be able to foresee all of the potential catastrophes, but we can prepare so that the regular chores move over to make room for rest. And we can let some things, ones that don’t involve tushies and tummies, wait.

  9. Patty Stallings April 30, 2014

    Kim, I love the eloquence of your writing and the beauty of your soul.  Clearly, you have cultivated and nurtured both.

    1. Kimberly Todd April 30, 2014

      Wind in my sails this morning, Patty. Thank you.

  10. Robin January 9, 2015

    Hi Kimberly. Great article on the Sabbath. So few get to experience it’s blessings it seems. Did you know God’s Sabbath is on Saturday? The day God rested on was actually the 7th day, the Saturday, and God hasn’t changed His 10 commandments. God bless.

     

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