Sabbath and Anger

I’m furious.

I have been for months. The 24-7 news cycle has wormed its way into my psyche and each “breaking news” headline sucks me deeper into rage. I can feel my blood boiling just about every minute of the day.

And for the most part, I’m glad. I fear the day that news of another police-involved shooting of a young black boy or the separation of immigrant children from their parents doesn’t stir me to fury. God forbid there come a day when I’m numb to the horrifying injustice around me.

I believe that silence is complicity. And I believe that because I am a white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, middle class, educated citizen of the United States, I have privilege that demands that I take a place of discomfort alongside those without that privilege whenever possible. I believe that the rage that I feel on behalf of my brothers and sisters of color pales in comparison to the rage that they must feel, that which I can never fully understand.

I believe that I am supposed to be angry. Angry as Jesus in the temple when the “religious people” used their power to exploit those without it. Flipping tables angry. John the Baptist screaming at the “brooding viper” Pharisees angry. Prophets shouting in the streets about the judgement to come angry.

But I also know that anger is exhausting. And consuming. And that, without direction, the feeling of anger itself produces nothing.

I’ve been praying lately that Jesus show me what to do with that anger. How to channel it into something productive, yes, but also how to find rest. I don’t want to withdraw from the pain around me, but I do have to be able to make it through the day without becoming bitter and hateful.

The Lord’s been showing me that at the root of my anger is a lot of anxiety. How do we fix this? How will we ever come back from this? How will the church have a leg left to stand on after the exhibition of this blatant idolatry? How will righteousness and justice win here?

And the Lord has been gently reminding me, in his kind way, that the of the kin-dom of God defeats this nonsense in the end.

Shalom is the persistent image throughout scripture of the good creation in which there is perfect relatedness between God, humanity, and the rest of creation. Where swords are beaten into plowshares and lions sleep besides lambs and no one even learns how to wage war any more. Where we see God face to face and the image of God clearly reflected in every ‘other’ before us. Shalom is family, and rest, and wholeness together.

Shalom is the promise for the people of God in the world to come and the calling of the people of God on the ground today.

And I confess, that in the chaos of the world around us, I sometimes lose focus on the goal. And even when I do catch the vision, the peace of feels like the opposite of the fury rising in me. And I’m not quite sure what to do with that.

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God brought something to my attention today as I was researching for a presentation. There is already a practice that has been gifted to us that allows us to embody this shalom.

On the seventh day, the culmination of creation, God rested and gave us the gift of Sabbath. Walter Brueggeman refers to the Sabbath as the “benediction… when harmony is brought to all the warring elements in our existence.” Rabbi Abraham Heschel describes it as “a reminder of the two worlds- this world and the world to come; it is an example of both worlds. For the Sabbath is joy, holiness, and rest; joy is part of this world; holiness and rest are something of the world to come.”

Elsewhere, Rabbi Heschel instructs that the Sabbath is not a time for tears or anger, only for celebration.

This stopped me in my tracks.

How can I not be angry? How can I celebrate? How can I possibly rest, knowing what I know and having seen what I’ve seen?

I always thought of Sabbath as liberation from the slave master of busyness and toil, but perhaps it is also offered as freedom from the emotional exhaustion that I feel about the state of the world.

Perhaps the rest of Sabbath doesn’t free me from responsibility but shifts that responsibility to something else.

Perhaps there are other ways to be faithful to justice and mercy other than anger.

Perhaps, rather than an abdication of responsibility and a donning of the privilege of passive ignorance, Sabbath is an act of open defiance. In choosing joy, in choosing to put one foot in the to come, we spit in the face of injustice and declare that its time will end.

We throw the party before the war is over.

I can’t imagine a more active form of resistance than this.

I’m still wrestling with what this looks like on the ground. In my experience, the church has been notoriously terrible at truly practicing Sabbath.

I’m imagining that it will look like a lot more resting. A lot more spending time with people that I love. A lot less time reading the news. A lot more time celebrating and proclaiming the goodness of the kin-dom that is already here and not yet here.

It will look like stillness and time in nature and creativity and play. There should probably be kids involved. I’m not going to talk about the president. I will give thanks and save my petitions for Monday.

And I’m praying, that this Sabbath practice shapes the rest of my week. Because if I orient myself to the goal- to the and goodness of God’s plan for us, then the rest of the week will have direction. The rest of the week will be for activism and holy indignation and moving my feet in the direction of justice in a much more healthy way, because I know that ultimately, shalom wins.


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