Sabbatical Reflections # 1

We live in a space and time universe. In any season of life we occupy both space, the place where we are standing, and time, the second on the watch, the moment in time. In my life, it has been far easier to occupy space than to occupy time.

I have been collecting a number of books to help me frame my period of rest. The first book I have read is by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Herschel, a past Professor at Jewish Theological Seminary of America. The book is titled simply The Sabbath, and it has begun to profoundly shape my vocabulary and my upcoming sabbatical.

Rabbi Herschel writes of the impact that the materialistic West has had on modern life. He says:

“Technical civilization is man’s conquest of space. It is a triumph frequently achieved by sacrificing an essential ingredient of existence, namely, time. In technical civilization, we expend time to gain space” (3).

“To gain control of the world of space is certainly one of our tasks. The danger begins when in gaining power in the realm of space we forfeit all aspirations in the realm of time. There is a realm of time where the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord. Life goes wrong when the control of space, the acquisition of things of space, becomes our sole concern” (3).

These words hit the mark as I examined experiences in my own life. Many people in the world are poor in the material realm. I have sought to help these people over the years in my work at Food for the Hungry International. However,  there is another kind of poverty from which I suffer: I am time poor! This is the poverty of materialistic societies. I feel as though I have been so busy living in space, acting into material dilemmas, changing  “things,” that I have not been living well “in time.” One of the common responses to the question “How are you?” is “I am so busy!” We may have so many material things and be working on material solutions in the world that we do not have time for the things that matter most: time alone with God; time with family, with friends, with a good book; time to walk in the forest or along the beach; time to “stop and smell the roses.”

We are too busy!

This sabbatical period of my life is meant to give me a reprieve from being too busy, from the insatiable urgency of e-mails and the fast pace of work and life. It is time to jettison space to have time!

Rabbi Hershel continues: “The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time” (10).  This is something that I long for at this season in my life. There is also a strong felt need to do a better job at building room for Sabbath in my day and week.

Hershel continues by discussing the Creation. God took six days to build space (the universe!) and the seventh day was created for “time.” God made a day for rest.  Hershel writes, “What was created on the seventh day? Tranquility, serenity, peace and repose” (23).  This is the longing of my own heart for this time of Sabbath rest. I must confess that I have spent so much time busy in space that I long for quality time in time.

Hershel  speaks of the need to build  a sanctuary in time (29). Most of our days are spent building tabernacles in space – houses, offices, theaters, infrastructure, etc.  However, to live a balanced life requires building sanctuaries not only in space but also in time. What does it mean to build a tabernacle in time? This is a skill I long to learn as I begin this sabbatical journey.

-Darrow L. Miller

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Equipping the Church to transform the world
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