Without a doubt, my favourite day of the week is Friday. My day off, when I am not available to work.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my vocation—seeking to attend to God and the lived experience of my neighbours and wider currents in society (how we relate to one another) and culture (the artefacts we create to express ourselves and what matters to us, to explore and engage with the big questions of life and the challenges we face) and attempting to articulate what I hear.
But it is rest that makes it all worthwhile.
The need for rest is enshrined in the Ten Words (also known as the Ten Commandments), which form a constitution for a new society. These words are given twice, in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21. They are essentially the same on both occasions, the exception being the word concerning a day of rest in every seven.
In Exodus 20:8-11, this word is rooted in creation, in the lived experience of God, who, having established harmony in six creative acts, rested on the seventh day, in order to delight in what he saw. Rest, like, work, is a creative act. The fruit of work, not only mine but the contribution of every other element, from the tiny beetle that sparkles like a jewel in the sun, to that of my fellow humans.
In Deuteronomy 5:12-15, this same word is rooted in deliverance from slavery, in the lived experience of the people being brought into being by God, drawing the necessary conditions for life to flourish out from the chaos that threatens to overwhelm life. In other words, this is a continuation of the so-called creation narrative, of the rhythms first established ‘in the beginning,’ in Genesis 1.
The Hebrews in Egypt were not like the race-based chattel slaves of more recent times. Their experience was comparable to that of their Egyptian neighbours, who were also slaves of Pharaoh; and the Hebrews themselves had slaves. It is an experience much more comparable to being an employee today, which can be under positive or negative conditions; but regular, dependable rest was absent, as it is for so many today.
Rest enables me to re-set. To look back and take delight on all that has been good. To know that there are limits on all that is deeply frustrating, on work that remains outstanding, because work is ongoing. Therefore, rest resists the lie that we must get it all done before we can rest. Or the lie that our identity and value is found solely in our work, in our economic contribution, rather than in being human in this world, a creature with a whole creation to enjoy. And rest confronts the lie that it all depends on me, that I am some kind of saviour. Rest invites me to enjoy a whole other creative act in the company of God and of my neighbours.
I love Fridays. Lying in my hammock, reading a novel. Or sitting on the sofa, watching a box set, with Jo. Perhaps going for a walk. Almost always, these days, a run in the early evening, with friends. Good food. A bottle of wine.