I’ve always found this advice from Ohio’s Conservative Friends challenging.
These don’t seem to be the best times in the world for “gentleness” or “self-restraint.” And the quietist impulse to pull back in times of social turbulence—well, in the spirit of Frederick Douglass, I’m a little suspicious of that. “Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow,” Douglass once said, quoting Lord Byron.
But whenever this quote surfaces in my meditation time, and it frequently does thanks to the Quaker Advices and Queries app, I turn it over again just in case there’s something in it for me.
A few years ago, Walter Brueggemann wrote about Sabbath as an ancient ritual of resistance to oppression and endless production, and social commentators have taken that characterization to heart.
This year, I’m finding Sabbath a welcome reprieve not from endless production but from this year’s endless political turmoil. As I check out of the workweek, I also get to check out of the news cycle. I miss stories. I’m late on analyses. I don’t see that Really Smart or Really Funny thing for days. And that’s precisely what I need to forestall overwhelm.
Unlike the Conservative Friends, I wouldn’t say there’s more courage in gentleness than in denunciation. I’d simply say there’s courage in gentleness too.
I can rest long enough to step outside the social cloud of hyper-vigilance, but I don’t have to take so long that I lose the ability to see how The Powers’ work impacts vulnerable people and what action’s in my power to take.
We have the right to rest. We don’t have to drive ourselves as Pharaoh once drove the Israelites. And there are no prizes for dying on the treadmill.
As the new week begins, please join me in remembering that and planning accordingly.