***On a day when the nation grieves another mass shooting---this time at the Naval Yards in Washington, DC---this meditation on faith, family and remembering what TRULY matters couldn't be more timely.
I dedicate this post to all those who are personally impacted by the Naval Yards tragedy...and a nation continually struggling with gun violence...
May a merciful God HELP US ALL!
Back when I was single and in graduate school, I remember hearing mentors and dissertation committee members say: “Enjoy this time. You will never have as much time to read, write, think, any of it as you have right now. You may feel overwhelmed, now but just wait until your finish the degree and start working.”
On a related matter, I remember hearing pastors and church leaders---particularly in those women’s classes--- in churches where I worshipped say: “Enjoy your time as a single woman. Don’t worry about being married now, just devote this time to serving the Lord and the community---because once you marry you will be consumed with other things.”
So, of course, all of that seemed like vain babble. They were all married people…so why were they trying to rain on my parade? I wanted IN. I wanted to be part of the married-with-children-club. I was tired of being one more ambitious, overachieving single-black-female sacrificed to the pyre of “wait-your-turn-your-time-will-come”.
So now, nearly seven years later, here I am PhD in hand, married, mother of a newly minted two year old juggling work as an anti-gun violence outreach coordinator, a global GunPlay(s) competition and a range of new opportunities. And the words of those wise sages who tried to reason with me have never been truer.
Time, sleep and caffeine have become the three most precious commodities in my life most days. By the weekend, my biggest challenge is “how to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy.” With a spouse and family members who often work weekends and so much to do myself, I find myself running the mental checklists matching dates, tasks and schedules in an effort to figure out whose-doing-what-when-and-where-so-that-I-can-find-moments-to-do-that-which-I-must.
So late last week, the schedules collided in such a way that left me anxious, buzzing, off my food plan and grazing on snacks and caffeinated drinks at too many coffee shops around town. And like every weekend, I pondered the same question:
Where will I worship?
When will I worship?
How will I worship?
Ok, those are all cute but the REAL QUESTIONS ARE:
How are you going to find somewhere where you can worship early enough to get home before your child wakes up while still allowing your overworked husband to sleep late?
Where can you and your child can go where others won’t be aggravated by her two-year-old need to howl, squawk intermittently or bang her tambourine at inappropriate times in the service?
Interestingly enough, recalling the wisdom of the Orthodox Jewish Sabbath provided a surprisingly strong anchor for the long weekend.
The notion of honoring the Orthodox Jewish Sabbath has appealed to me for many years. The idea of living life full throttle Sunday-Thursday and then giving yourself permission from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown ROCKS.
In one of my favorite books “How To Run A Traditional Jewish Household” by Blu Greenberg, the author paraphrases “Shabbat” or Sabbath activities in the following ways:
“Six days shall you be a workaholic; on the seventh day, shall you join the serene company of human beings….
Six days shall you take orders from your boss; on the seventh day, shall you be master/mistress of your own life…
Six days shall you create, drive, create, invent, push, drive; on the seventh day, shall you reflect…
Six days shall you be the perfect success; on the seventh day shall you remember that not everything is in your power…
Six days shall you enjoy the blessings of work; on the seventh day, shall you understand that being is as important as doing.
Typically ---in the spirit of a mini-daily Sabbath of sorts---from 5:00 pm to 9:00 each evening, I don’t do any “work” and try to give my attention to my daughter and husband. Inevitably, though, I spend half of that time cooking and cleaning, explaining to my daughter that I have to cook and can’t hold her right then, eating and post-cooking and cleaning clean-up closely followed by baby bedtime activities.
However, last Friday evening, I JUST LET GO IN MY SPIRIT. I just decided that I won’t do it all…and I’m not going to worry about not doing it all either. And it was quite REVOLUTIONARY.
For that 24-hour period, I DECIDED not to worry about work and just paid attention to my family. I read a bit of Joan Chittister’s work “the Role of Benedict” before bed Friday night. On Saturday morning, the baby slept late, we had a relaxed breakfast when she rose, we played some, we read some, we watched some of her favorite shows, we went and visited her dad at an outdoor event he was working, we came home and had lunch. We both napped, rose, had dinner and played till daddy got home. And I turned in before midnight reading a bit more of the Chittister text on Benedictan life.
What was deeply revealing about all this is that----by honoring the work already done and not trying to squeeze out any more--- I felt calmer, more centered, didn’t find myself snacking mindlessly and felt MORE connected with my family.
It was GOOD just to sit with my baby and realize just how much she knows about shapes, colors, animals and an impressive array of barnyard inhabitants. It was GOOD to show up on my husband’s job---not because we had to---but just to bring the baby and support him at one of the ga-zillion events he does on campus as a way of thanking him for all he does for us.
On the matter of worship, I set my clock Saturday night to get up Sunday morning and visit some church somewhere. Yet upon rising, I decided that I would once again forego the gymnastics of it all…and stay put. But the REAL REVELATION of this was that I had inadvertently HONORED THE SABBATH. Perhaps not in the Orthodox way of avoiding all work and use of electronic or motorized gadgets, preparing all meals in advance, walking to the synagogue for worship, etc.,. But honored the Sabbath in the spirit of shutting out the demands of email, and work tasks for that 24-hour period. Furthermore, THAT period was about more than shutting things out. It was also about letting myself focus on people that matter intentionally and with real love.
So, for once in a long time, I released myself of the guilt of not going to church. I will still endeavor to meet my deep need for worship with great conversations with women of faith, by reading good literature and attending services when I can.
And for those of you who might still doubt or judge, when your churches decide to have toddler-friendly services….or feel compelled to come sit with my toddler so that I can get to the worship house, I happily await your calls.
In the meantime, however, I am happy to report that I felt God’s presence in this weekend’s Sabbath awakening---which confirmed the wisdom of “honoring the Sabbath and keeping it holy” and thank my Jewish sisters and my daughter for the reminding me of the Sabbath’s abiding importance for US ALL.
Nicole Anderson Cobb, PhD, is the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence (ICHV) Outreach Coordinator for Central Illinois. She is also the author of TANGLED, an award-winning play that examines gun violence in Chicago and the convening playwright of The GunPlay(s) Competition 2013-2014, a competition focused on plays that examine gun violence in American life. For more information: http://www.samaritanroadproductions.com/contact-nicole-anderson-cobb-phd-at-samaritan-road-productions.htm