In my previous post, I wrote about the Sabbath. As in, as much as I try consistently to give myself a weekly day of rest, I’m far away from being as dedicated as our former pastor. In response, I promised I would read The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel.
Then I went on vacation for two weeks to visit family in Sweden. One of our first stops was to visit my brother, David, and his wonderfully big family on the island of Gotland in the middle of the Baltic Sea. “On Friday, you can join us for our Sabbath dinner,” he texted before we came. “Sounds exciting!” I replied.
Friday came along and I noticed the preparations starting to take place. My brother baked a special kind of bread. My sister-in-law, Emily, prepared a luxurious meal (including dessert!). The children emerged from their rooms wearing button-down shirts and other finery. Then it was time for dinner. Candles were lit. Words were spoken. And we each got to say what we were thankful for. Then we ate.
It was lovely. The ritual ushered the family into their day of rest, which they observe from Friday evening to Saturday evening. “I’m not sure what we’d do without it,” Emily said. “It is so good for our family.”
This theme was repeated over and over as I conducted research for my new book, Her Lost Year. In search of what it takes to optimize mental health, I repeatedly came across the importance of a day of rest. In the book, I write:
I am a big proponent of observing a “day of rest” (a.k.a. “the Sabbath” in the Jewish and Christian traditions). When I was growing up and was forced to observe the Sabbath as a child, it was a bit annoying, mostly because we couldn’t go shopping. However, as an adult, I have realized the significance of weekly rest for optimal wellness.
So I turn now to The Sabbath and read in the introduction these words:
The Sabbath comes like a caress, wiping away fear, sorrow and somber memories.
Of course! That is how I felt there on the island. And I wanted to bring it home. And so I’m ready to give myself permission to rest—for a whole day each week. Not because I’m lazy, but because I know it is what I need to be mentally well.