There is a ten-minute break at the top of every hour at our neighborhood pool. The three lifeguards in the stands, their emotions veiled by sunglasses and high-school coolness, give each other The Nod and shrill their whistles in unison. Like a call-and-response liturgy, a chorus of caregivers – “Time to get out!” – evokes groans from the children in the water.
Is this break time a kind of sabbath?
I’m not suggesting that the biblical, Judeo-Christian concept of a 24-hour period of rest should be shortchanged, nay, impoverished by a short segment, especially because half the time is spent by parents assisting youngsters in the restroom.
But it is a mandated time of rest.
Granted, a pool break does not occur at sunrise, which seemed to be the preferred time of rest for the wry rabbi of long ago. Also, if one can walk on water, perhaps a break from swimming is unwarranted.
Our hip, sunglass-sporting lifeguards seem to spend their break in an active flirtation with one another. At least they are out of the blazing sun. Jesus did say that the sabbath was made for us, meaning that the time was a blessing, not a burden.
My kids think of the break as snack time, preferably ice cream. They spoon their frozen treat not quite as fast as it melts, pausing only for “Dad tax” — a bite for the person who purchased their dessert. Maybe one of their friends will stop by our table or else an adult I know from church or the larger community. But more often, the kids and I sit quietly. I give no instructions; they do not bicker. There’s not much of anything to do. Save wait.
Maybe that is a glimpse of sabbath. The freedom to be.
For the record, I rarely pray during this time. I don’t think so-called religious thoughts of the Infinite Incomprehensibility or about emails to write back in the church office. But the other day, I did have the seed of an idea that has germinated into this blog post.
Maybe that, too, is a glimpse of sabbath. Time to daydream and laze about can inspire creativity. Rest is generative in this sense. Maybe you can find something like it in your daily routine, with or without the wet bathing suit.
When the lifeguards stroll like royalty back to the stands, there is a scramble among kids to locate goggles and evade well-intentioned caregivers brandishing sunscreen. My kids generally race to the pool’s edge, lining up with their friends. At the first trill of the whistle, they cannonball into the water with shrieks.
But just the other day, before he scampered off to play, my middle son, age seven, reached for my hand, pulling me out of my writer’s daydream. He squeezed my hand: “Dad, I like sitting next to you on break.”
I smiled, “It’s nice to rest, huh?”
The young theologian corrected me, “It’s nice to rest together.”