The Chicken and the Egg: Part 5, Sabbath and Shame

This is a point I've made before, but it's another illustration of the chicken and egg problems facing churches.

We hear a lot about how stressed, busy, rushed, maxed out, and burnt out we all are. And how all this is destroying our physical, emotional, familial and relational health. Into that stress and strain we hear the call to practice Sabbath. We need to find space and margin for rest and relationship. 

The message of Sabbath falls like rain on dry ground. Rest! That sounds so, so amazing. Everyone wants it. And yet, no one does it.

That's a really strange situation, if you ponder it. Why is something so desired a thing we never do? Medicine is at hand, yet we keep refusing to take it. Why?

As I've argued, in a world where we measure our value and worth by metrics of productivity, a certain degree of shame-resiliency is needed for Sabbath. To step into Sabbath rhythms requires stepping away from a striving for greater and greater success. But to accomplish this, you have to face your own self-esteem project, along with the social shame of letting your peer cohort advance beyond you as you stay where you are, and even back up. That's the problem. Sabbath is a zero-sum game. If you're resting, you're not working. And if you're not working, you're not advancing or succeeding. 

In short, Sabbath, as a call for spiritual formation, demands some prior virtues, like shame-resiliency. If you lack those virtues you don't make the sacrifices Sabbath demands. Rest comes with a price-tag, and most of us lack the virtues to pay that price. Chicken and egg. We can't engage in virtue-formation practices, such as Sabbath, because we lack the virtues to engage those practices.

This entry was posted by Richard Beck. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply