For centuries the word “sabbath” denoted a time of religious retreat, but in recent years it has come to be viewed as a necessary time of retreat to recalibrate ourselves to face the pressures of modern life.
“Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy,” was one of the original 10 Commandments – the third on the list – but it was a concept practiced by other religions and cultures around the world. For some that meant focusing on God; for others it was a time of healing.
It was centred on the idea that life during the week can not only drain us but also cause us to make decisions that in the long run are detrimental to our mental health. There is the need to regroup, either with ourselves or others, to gain perspective and realign our minds and bodies with those things and principles that keep us in-tune and healthy.
The sabbath wasn’t designed to be a 24/7 exercise, but a brief sojourn for a few hours away from life’s normal pace. While it might have a positive effect on the rest of the week, the day was meant to be a kind of “retreat” that was temporary and left the remainder of the week in place.
Kind of like summer. Which makes sense, since most of us view summer as many things – holiday, rest, cottage time, travel, gatherings – all of which are brief in nature. Traditionally, we view summer as 2 months out of 12 or a few weeks of vacation out of 52. Yet, however we look at it, we tend to view the summer break as a form of turning away from the pressures of modern life by retreating from regular life.
There is a basic rule of these warm months that we tend to follow, even if we don’t recognize it. Simply, we don’t want to live a normal life in such a season. We are “normal” the rest of the time and because of all the responsibilities and demands that come with that normalcy, we seek occasions to escape it and become freer, more ourselves at peace.
None of us are normal or regular. Those are modes we adopt to get along in the world – to work, play, be with family, fit into society. But we are also unique beings who find little time to celebrate or pursue that uniqueness in daily living. There are times when we don’t want to live like everyone else and the summer months frequently become that opportunity to break away and explore.
I read a phrase in a book years ago that has remained with me – displaced from normalcy. This is what we seek in summer, though we often don’t envision it that way. It is simply a time when we seek healing – physically, emotionally, relationally, spiritually, psychologically – and we have to depart from the normal activities to achieve. That’s always a difficult thing to manage when we have to take some of those responsibilities along with us on vacation – kids, catching up on correspondence, visiting relatives, etc. – but we seek those freeing, graceful, moments nevertheless and in those brief periods we are confronted with one simple reality – ourselves. There is much to consider in such moments, but the point is that summer has drawn us in that direction and we seek it for our own health.
We are set aside from normal activities during these moments and we discover ourselves seeking those things that truly matter and are consequential – healing, rest, forgiveness, being willing to forgive, physical health, peace, and sometimes spiritual fulfillment. In such moments we become our own physicians because, in truth, in such dimensions we can only heal if willing to restore ourselves to our unique personalities.
This is the true “normal,” the real us and summer is when most of us have the occasion to seek it. We may reject it, in which case personal healing proves fleeting. But for those who embrace it in the healing rhythms and warmth that summer brings they discover their true selves emerging. In such instances, we are our own physicians.
I love this quote from Mandy Hale:
“You’ll learn, as you get older, that rules are made to be broken. Be bold enough to live life on your terms, and never, ever apologize for it. Go against the grain, refuse to conform, take the road less traveled instead of the well-beaten path. Laugh in the face of adversity, and leap before you look. Dance as though EVERYBODY is watching. March to the beat of your own drummer. And stubbornly refuse to fit in.”
The truth is, of course, that in ordinary life it is frequently impossible to live in such a fashion because of all that we have to do, to accomplish, to keep peace with others. But in the summer? Well, these are the days to live out what Hale has challenged us with, to heal ourselves and our world in the process.