Through a series of gifts, unplanned margins, I had two straight Saturdays of practicing full, uninterrupted Sabbath.
Honestly, through all of our scheming and planning we still have to grab hold of moments when they come. No one will do it for us.
So during these Saturdays I had an epiphany, and it came through my wife as we sat down to a relaxed Sabbath meal. We lit the candle and “waved” the light to us three times – a Jewish practice of “bringing in the Sabbath light.”
My wife turned to me and said, “You going to shower today?”
“No, no I’m not,” I replied with an uncontrollable grin.
Apparently Sabbath means I don’t shower.
Permit me to vamp on that for a bit – there’s so much of our life that is built on how other people see us.
When we speak, we have to wonder how much is expressing what is the true content of our soul and how much of it is our desire to control what other people think of us.
Many of us have a full-time job on top of our full-time job, an energy-draining activity that puts all the weight of worth and value on one person.
Even something like hygiene, showering and scenting ourselves well is a way of managing our social order and space. Other cultures, most African cultures out of lack of water and European cultures out of lack of concern, don’t have my occupation with how I smell.
Some of it, too, comes from the fact that I’m a guy and I don’t have to put forth much effort to stink.
How often do our decisions, our words, our actions come from the fountain of public approval and welcome? How much of it comes from our constant need to be accepted, welcomed, and seen as having all of our junk together?
These are blatant denials of reality. We are half put-together at best, staggering through what we feel and believe and walking lightly around people that approve or disapprove of us and we have to make peace with that because they are our friends, co-workers, etc. and we have to keep a relationship with them that operates in a healthy, at least cordial way.
So when do we get to “not shower”?
When is that moment when we get to let the guard down, to surrender the strain of image management, and to lean into that deeper core identity of who we are. (Colossians 3, 1 John 3:1ff)
Sabbath was a practice that God asked His people to keep weekly. Why?
Because it’s easy, in the midst of our relating to each other, to lose “who” we are. We find our identity in what others think of us, in what our brand or reputation might be, or we find our identity in that outward working of good that we’ve turned into an inwardly sour tension.
Sabbath is a chance for me to remember that when all is stripped away, when everything I put out to the world become quiet, when everything I maintain so people don’t think I’m three steps from living in my bathrobe binge watching HGTV comes grinding to a halt – there is still life.
Sabbath is a chance for me to remember that I belong to Someone, the one who does not need me to dress up what is already plain to Him.
Sabbath reunites me with my true longings.
Sabbath reminds me of the need for rest.
Sabbath reconnects me with the ones who are not impressed by my showered self and yet still love me.
My family may keep their distance, but they do it with love.
After reading this, you may have this thought: yeah, tell them! Only God can judge me! I should be able to do whatever I want to do and not care what people think.
Let me suggest that this, in a way, is just another form of image management (at best) and at worst it’s the ignoring of the beautiful invitation to love (Matthew 22:38-39).
Not showering doesn’t mean I cease loving – honestly, I need to love more because these people around me are accepting me even though I stink.
Sabbath means I don’t shower, and even then, I am loved and can love in return.