The summer has hardly begun and now that the hot weather has cranked up, crankiness is beginning to show its face. Legos are strewn about, wet towels are flung on the couch — or perhaps are molding in some corner. Conversations are being reduced to occasional grunts in the midst of video games and the volume of yelling has increased as the lack or response to simple requests decreases. This is supposed to be a time when we relax, rest and rejuvenate. But it just isn’t happening.
If this feels familiar, you’re not alone. Lots of families find themselves more tired at the end of a summer’s day than at other times of the year. The stress of everyone being at home at once and all the time can contribute to feelings of frustration. There’s no less love going on, but it’s hard to be cheery when no one seems to be cooperating with what needs to be done.
Vacations during which people get away from their home are possible antidotes to the summertime craziness, but often parents are more exhausted than rejuvenated at the end of their time away. Is there no rest for the weary?
Some thousands of years ago things were worse. People didn’t have office jobs but were forced to survive by working the land. Or they were part of a forced labor gang — for life! We can hardly imagine life without power tools, dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers, cars, etc. Whole societies never considered the concept of “leisure time” because there never was any. The grueling routine of daily living needed something to break its grip. And that something was the Sabbath — a day of rest.
The concept comes from the bible’s first story of creation in which even God rests on the seventh day after a week of creating. God’s people were urged to follow suit. Abject poverty would make a day of not working impossible for those trying to survive. But for those who could afford it, taking a day off to rest made the remainder of the week better. Nowadays Sundays are often designated as the day of rest. And while the traditional Sunday family dinner provided little rest for the cooks, it was still an opportunity for people to step out of their normally pre-occupied lives and come together to experience a bit of love and care.
Sundays were also the day to go to church. While pastors didn’t get to rest that day, the church community was similar to the Sunday dinner — people broke the usual routine of rushing from activity to activity in order to reconnect themselves to God and to each other as a larger family. And even when the kids weren’t on their best behavior, people had a greater sense of peace and strength as they left church and headed out for the rest of their week.
Are you able to create a day of rest for yourself and your family? What activities are helpful to restoring a sense of peace, patience and kindness that balances your life? Why not have a conversation with everyone in your household about the “day of rest” concept and elicit suggestions of how to simplify at least one day a week? It’s oxymoronic to say that some people will have to work hard at finding a way to rest, but it a work worth doing.
Poet Wendell Berry says the Sabbath “asks us to notice that while we rest, the world continues on without our help. It invites us to delight in the world’s beauty and abundance.” If you’re not noticing the world’s beauty on Facebook, give it a rest for the day. If you’re not noticing the world’s beauty because of the pile of laundry that calls out to be done, give it a rest for a day. If you’re not noticing the world’s beauty because Sunday’s routine is just like the rest of the week, give that a rest for a day.