The Rabbi moved her hands inward from the newly-lit candles to her eyes and explained the movement. “We draw the light of God back into ourselves as we celebrate Shabbat.” Those of us gathered in celebration nodded at the beauty of the truth she’d spoken. Some of us moved our hands to our eyes, calling the holiness of the moment into ourselves.
The Jewish tradition of gathering on Friday evening at sundown to mark the beginning of Shabbat is deeply beautiful and powerful. Shabbat candles are lit and a blessing is recited to mark the beginning of a day of rest and spiritual focus.
We go and go and go so quickly in our lives, we create to-do lists and more to-do lists, and we don’t mark a time of rest and spiritual focus. We keep busy and stay busy.
And I wonder why.
We know the value of rest. We know the value of taking care of our selves and souls. We know the value of Sabbath.
Yet we readily, almost pathologically, ignore it. We worship at the altar of the glorification of busy and invite endless chatter and movement to take up all the space in our selves. We go until we collapse on our sofas, falling asleep to whatever marginally interesting television show is playing, exhausted at the end of the day or end of the week. We wake up tired, and we begin again.
I wonder if we are fearful of taking time regularly to call the light of God back into ourselves. I wonder if we know, innately perhaps, that stopping to rest, to make time for spiritual focus, will change us. And while we may not like all of where we are, we do like what is known.
For better or for worse, what is known is familiar, and we humans are creatures of the familiar.
Creating regular time to draw the light of God into our selves and souls creates a way for the light to find its way into our corners and crevices, where we’ve hidden things about our selves and souls we don't want to face. It allows the familiar to be seen in another light - God's Light.
The forgiveness we’ve denied, the anger we’ve justified grasping onto, the gifts of God we’re refusing to use or misusing, the shame we’ve allowed to speak louder than God’s love, the shame we transmit to others, the dreams we’ve abandoned, and the deep truths we don’t want to hear.
Make no mistake, when I’ve gone on retreat, I’ve dropped down into my muck and mud and found the light of God in the midst of all of the primordial stuff I ignored or believed I had processed through (what a terrible term - process, as if our emotional selves are an organized flowchart).
I’ve stumbled over truths the Light illuminated, skinned my knees and bruised myself in the fall, then discovered the beauty of the mess in which I sat. It sounds lovely in hindsight, and it is, but it’s messy, hard word to draw the Light of God to one’s interior and allow it to illuminate what we’d rather not see.
Obviously these big Light moments likely won’t happen every week, but I wonder what might happen if we dedicated time each week, each day, perhaps, to take time to draw the Light of God back into our selves, to allow God to show us the parts of our souls we are trying to ignore with our constant busyness, and to remind us to rest and refocus on God.
What if we took small moments each week to let night come and let God’s Light of draw back into ourselves?