I don't know if I've mentioned here upon the blog but since April 7 of this year we've been taking a sabbatical from synagogue. We'd come to a time where we had more questions than answers, were feeling confused. We felt as though we were battling on too many fronts at once. After long, late night heart to heart talks, periodic outbursts and a series of incidents that left us feeling more confused than ever, we finally decided that the best thing we could do was to step away for a space of time. I suggested a month. John, as head priest of our household had other ideas. He decided upon a longer period of time. We have about two more weeks before we return.
I don't share this now because I wish to boast or brag. I want to share it because spiritually it's been very intense. We didn't say to ourselves "We'll have a free Saturday for a bit," nor set aside our Bibles. Instead, we increased our prayer time, Bible study and sought God more than ever.
At first, I thought we'd withdraw completely from life and simply study and pray as we'd done for a period once before. But our lives didn't allow that just now. Mama had doctors appointments and John had to work. The kids popped in for visits, we were obligated to go to this place or to do that and then there were the unexpected things that kept popping up. I realized slowly that the real challenge of sabbatical was to be in sabbatical while living a normal life. To make time for extra prayer and study and seeking God on a daily basis while tending to all the rest, that was the challenge. And we did. I learned that the steering wheel is as good an altar as any, as is the kitchen sink and the broom and the laundry that needs to be folded. I learned that time spent in a chair waiting at the doctor was just as good a place for prayer. All offered up an opportunity to turn to God.
We've used the resources at our disposal. I've read some of the books that were already on our shelves to dig deeper into my knowledge of the Bible. We've watched a world of televised sermons, listened to Cd's of other teachings and sermons and listened to some form of praise/worship music on a daily basis.
And then we began to have others come to us asking for our prayers in their situations. First one and then another. We took this responsibility seriously and diligently remembered them in our daily prayer times. It was so rewarding to hear that this one and then that one had received a clear answer. We were thankful for those answers, pleased to have the opportunity to watch God work in their lives. But oh! it did make us wonder why we heard nothing and saw no evidence of answers in our own lives. And that changed us, too, because if we thought we were diligent before, if we thought we sought God before, we were humbled and went to spend still more time before Him.
We went to St. Augustine and our Bibles went with us. The first part of each day was spent studying and in prayer. Even vacation did not hinder us from continuing our quest. We've taken this time very seriously. And I can say assuredly that while we have not yet received answers, we've seen God's hand in our lives. There have been blessings, and sermons that echoed one another driving lessons home. There have been passages of the Bible study that highlighted the chapters read that morning. I would love to say that this reassured us, but it made us more impatient still for an answer right now.
This past week I sat down with a tangled lump of tiny gold chains that were knotted. It took days to work out those tangles. I'd work until my eyes were bleary and my body stiff. I'd get up and walk away for a bit and then in an hour or so I was back working at those chains. Gradually I managed to untangle them all. There were fifteen necklaces in that tangled mess. It took over a week to free them one by one. Why did I work so diligently over a mess that had been in my dresser drawer for years? Because some of those necklaces had meaning to me. One was given to me by John and was especially precious to me because he chose it on his own without asking if I liked it first. That one was the most important of the bunch. And you know that was the one that was freed last. That was the one that kept me working away hour after hour patiently untangling tiny knot after tiny knot.
That's very representative of how this time has been. There have been times we wearied and felt we simply couldn't utter another prayer, ask again for an answer, study one more page. And yet, little by little, I know in my heart that something has changed. We've changed. Every prayer answered for another brought about a change that has affected us, will affect us. We have clarity about why we felt so confused. We have clarity about what it is to be set apart. We know what it is we would like to see manifest in our spiritual lives. Yet we've not yet untangled that important, precious thing, the reason why we came to this time in the first place.
This evening as we completed our Shabat communion, I knew exactly why we had to walk away from synagogue to spend this time with God. Religion, no matter what denomination, creates barriers that prevent us from drawing closer. It's not intentional on the part of the pastors or rabbis or priests. We are human. We get caught up in the have tos and shoulds and ought nots and lose sight of what it is we're meant to be doing all our days, all our hours of all our days: seeking God and giving Him our praise.
We wait for answers. We continue to seek Him.