sabbath is trust
On Saturday, after pulling on the Cubs hat Dan bought me at a baseball game the month before we got married, I grabbed two peaches, and we left the house, headed west toward the beach, and parked ourselves on a blanket under a tree in Sanctuary Woods, where we read until the mosquitoes got the best of us.
We needed it. When I live most of my days in a four-block radius, I can start to think I’m at the center, with the rest of life revolving around me. But yesterday, I thanked even the mosquitoes for reminding me that whole ecosystems run entirely without my help. This forest would not collapse if I quit checking my email. Work makes me feel important, useful, essential even, but yesterday was good. It put my little self in perspective.
As I mentioned a month ago, we started a new job. For the time being, we’re working at Hope College as Interim Chaplains of Discipleship. I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve actually had a title.
It’s so much more than a title—really, it’s an office, one we’re miraculously inhabiting, one that bears weight, that clothes us with a kind of authority and an immediate sense of trustworthiness. We love these students, who are loving us right back. Some days I think I understand what it’s like to be a mother. I look across the pine grove at all the students wandering to class and wonder, Do you know how much we love you? Do you know that we pray for you?
I’m overcome with deep devotion to this, our congregation.
Not to break the charm of the moment, but this work has also made us busy. The learning curve is steeper than the last push up Mt. McLoughlin, where I was clambering up on all fours. The work is pleasurable, the students energizing, the trajectory consequential. If I let it, this work could swell to fill all my time. But in two days, our classes at Western start.
So we’re practicing very, very hard to circumscribe our time. We’re human. We can only do so much.
And even if we could do so much, we’ve been asked not to. Part of why we give bounds to our work is out of obedience to the fourth commandment, especially as it’s established in Deuteronomy. While Exodus 20 roots Sabbath in God’s pattern of creation, Deuteronomy says it’s about freedom:
Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day. (Deut 5:15)
God’s people keep the Sabbath because we’re not enslaved anymore. We don’t have to make bricks day in and day out. Even good work becomes bad work when it’s toilsome and unending.
So Dan and I are keeping a Sabbath. We’re not slaves in Egypt.
Our Sabbath this weekend took us to Sanctuary Woods, where the trees and the ferns and the bugs showed me that God sustains his creation, that I fall within the sphere of God’s providence, but that I’m not the axis. I don’t keep things running.
Eugene Peterson talks about Sabbath in his book Working the Angles, explaining why the Jewish Sabbath actually begins at night: “We go to sleep and God begins his work … We wake into a world we didn’t make, into a salvation we didn’t earn. Evening: God begins, without our help, his creative day. Morning: God calls us to enjoy and share and develop the work he initiated” (68).
Napping, turning off my computer, taking a walk, reading all afternoon, falling asleep at night—these are all ways of saying, “Lord, you’re still at work, keeping your cosmos running. I’ll take a break and leave it in your hands.”
Sabbath is trust.
How long it takes me to fall asleep at night and how early I wake up in the morning signal to me how well I am trusting the Lord. The more anxious I am, the worse I sleep, the more I know that I’m trying to usurp God’s role rather than joining in on his work.
Here’s to learning to trust.
Apricot Freezer Jam
from Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain
On our Sabbath a few weeks ago, I cooked up some freezer jam (my first!). The apricots at the market, with their freckled cheeks, were irresistible. If apricots are gone from your market, peaches or plums may work, but I haven’t tried either and I’m not the one to ask. The jam is delicious on toast, on muffins (the ones in the photos are from the recipe on the side of Bob’s Red Mill 10 Grain mix and are my favorite), and I’d imagine on pancakes or oatmeal.
3 pounds apricots
heaping 1/2 cup sugar
Put a plate in the freezer. This is for testing the consistency of the jam later. Make an ice bath in a very large bowl by filling it with ice and a cup of water. Set out a rubber spatula and a small bowl, but don’t put it in the larger bowl yet or the condensation will end up diluting your jam. Also, learn from my mistake and ensure that your combination of ice water and smaller bowl won’t lead to a tipped bowl and jam drowned in ice water.
Now: rinse the apricots if you need to, slice them in half, and remove the pits. Stir the apricots and sugar together in a deep pot and turn the burner to medium. Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until the fruit has softened and the sugar melts.
Then crank the heat to medium-high and stir constantly for the next 15 or 20 or more minutes. I’d advise long sleeves, because even if you never quit stirring, the hot fruit will still burble and splatter. As you stir, the fruit will go from apricot halves to a thick, soft puree, more like a compote than stiff jelly.
With a candy (or other kitchen) thermometer, check the heat. Kim Boyce says it should hover around 200ºF, but I couldn’t get it past 180ºF. Since this is a freezer jam, I wouldn’t worry. Once it reaches that point, remove the pot from the heat and spoon a little jam onto the plate that’s been in the freezer. By cooling the jam instantly, this tells you the consistency of your jam. If it’s thinner than you’d like, put the pot back on the heat. If you like the thickness, it’s done cooking.
Scrape the jam into the small bowl, making sure nothing is left in the pot. Set that bowl into the ice bath and stir to let out some of the heat. Press plastic wrap against the surface of the jam to prevent a skin from forming. During the cooling process, remove the smaller bowl, pour out some of the water so that it doesn’t leak into the jam, and set the jam bowl back into the ice bath.
When it has cooled completely, spoon it into jars, which will last for about two weeks in the fridge or several months in the freezer.