As I've argued it, following Brene Brown, many of us are operating out of a mindset of scarcity. What Brene calls the "never enough" problem. Physically and psychologically we feel exhausted and depleted, which interferes with our ability to invest in authentic community and prophetic ministry.
What is causing this exhaustion?
Some of it is caused by what I've described as "the scarcity trap," the way neurotic anxiety fuels basic anxiety. Facing what Brene calls "the shame-based fear of being ordinary" we push to be noticed, successful and significant. We work hard and over-commit because we want to matter. As I put it in yesterday's post, shame produces exhaustion.
Now, the solution to exhaustion, many will tell you, is the practice of Sabbath. And I agree. But that observation is missing something very important.
Specifically, we all want Sabbath. What stressed out and exhausted person isn't craving rest, margin and restoration?
So the issue isn't convincing us that we need Sabbath. We all know that. The issue is this: Why is Sabbath keeping so difficult?
Why aren't we doing something we want to do? Something weird is going on. We want to rest. We crave it more than just about anything. But we can't, won't or don't rest.
What's going on? Why don't we practice Sabbath?
Here's why: Because to practice Sabbath means that you have to start saying "No" to create the margins you need to rest and rehabilitate. But with each "No" the shame increases. With each "No" you are backing away from something that would have made you important, noticed, successful, significant or more materially well-off. We don't practice Sabbath because when we stop the world starts rushing past us, making us feel like we're getting left behind, like we're losing, like we are missing something. Sabbath starts to feel like failure.
In short, we don't practice Sabbath because Sabbath is an assault upon our self-esteem. Sabbath shames us. Or, more precisely, Sabbath surfaces our shame.
So we need shame-resilience to practice Sabbath. That, in my estimation, is what has been missing in the ubiquitous calls to practice Sabbath. We all know we need Sabbath. We all want to rest. But our fears of failing and falling behind keep tempting us away from rest. Our culture shames us out of Sabbath.
Which is why I think Sabbath is a form of spiritual warfare with the principalities and powers. With the rise of capitalism our culture has been infected by what Alain de Botton has called "status anxiety." Which is to say, shame is the fuel of capitalism. Capitalism feeds off of this neurotic anxiety, using fear to create wealth and abundance but leaving us physically exhausted, psychologically broken and spiritually depleted. Which is why we call it the rat race.
Conservative Christians like to think that spiritual warfare is about the spiritual, psychological realm. Liberals like to think of spiritual warfare as being about the political realm. Both are missing the point.
Pay attention to what I'm saying here. The therapeutic is the political.
As Walter Brueggemann reminds us, Sabbath is resistance. Sabbath resists the spirituality of the principalities and powers--the capitalistic and consumeristic rat race--to nurture the physical and psychological resources to fuel further resistance, making us increasingly available for both community and prophetic ministry.
If shame is the fuel of capitalism then Sabbath is the fuel for the Kingdom of God.
But, and here's the big take home point, Sabbath-keeping requires shame-resilience. Sabbath requires relaxing into the "shame-based fear of being ordinary" as we allow the world to rush by as we settle into the humble, small and human rhythms of Sabbath. To practice Sabbath means to go quiet, to be less noticed, to rest into the ordinary. And it takes shame-resilience to do that.
The therapeutic is the political.
Sabbath is spiritual warfare.