Anne Lamott has a powerful quote attributed to her I’ve seen on Facebook: Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.
In the past months, I have become more aware of the wisdom of regular unplugging, of keeping sabbath. This is a particularly helpful practice when relationships change and shift. Somehow we humans decided if we just keep busy, if we just keep tinkering with things, and if we just keep talking and processing, we can fix things.
Maybe it’s our need for control. Surely, we think, since we made the mess, we can fix the mess. Maybe our need constantly to be present and meddle with things says volumes about our lack of trust in the healing power of God. Maybe we think we can control the narrative of another person’s soul by constancy. Then, we think, everything will work just as we’d like it to work.
Life is often a series of things ceasing to work as we think they should. Patterns we’ve become used to shift subtly and suddenly we are on new ground. Relationships between people, both personal and professional, become changed, and the former ways we were in relationship don’t work anymore. Institutions we love grow into newness and change.
In the midst of all this, we can stop working well. We become panicky, perhaps. Even angry, that our old ways don’t work anymore. So we become very busy.
Our busyness may help, but I’ve found in the midst of shifts and changes, we would do well to remember the holiness of sabbath, of unplugging, of giving our souls space. When we don’t give ourselves and others space in the midst of change, we smother with our need to control. On more than one occasion I’ve seen wounded relationships that could have found new life deeply damaged because parties refused to give space and unplug, to remember sabbath time, and to allow God space in the midst of change.
There are times and moments in the midst of changes that demand our work and our action, there are also equal moments that demand we unplug, we give space to allow God to work, and we focus on our selves and souls instead of giving our energy to changing another. And being honest, much of our energy in the midst of changing relationships is devoted to changing the other.
True unplugging and engaging in sabbath in the midst of change allows us to get through our, “If s/he will just do X,Y, and Z it will all be okay” (focusing on the other and projecting our own stuff onto them) and move into “Oh, how do I feel and what’s going on with me” (self-examination and self-awareness while listening to God). Sabbath and unplugging invites us to sit with God and ourselves and discover what parts of this company we enjoy, and what parts we might need to get to know better.
Sabbath disconnects from our egos and re-establishes our connection back to God. When we unplug, we begin the process of turning down the volume on our ego’s voice that tells ourselves and others how to behave to meet our wants and needs and to listen intently to the still, small voice of God reminding us that love does not control others. When we unplug, we disconnect from the things we think we need in our lives, including positions, power, and expectations, and reconnect to the thing we really do need in our lives - to be authentic, to be loved, and to love others as they are in the example of Christ. When we unplug, we offer ourselves wholly to the presence and guidance of God.
When we unplug, we engage in the work of the Spirit, mandated by God eons ago with the command to remember the sabbath and keep it holy.
This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be. If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently. And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.
-from the Book of Common Prayer, prayer for in the morning.