Jared Witt - August 13, 2018
Think of all the places where you spend your life. I mean real, physical locations, not digital ones.
Now let me ask you two questions:
If you’re like most of us in 21st century North Americans, you probably had the same top two answers for both questions: work and home. Think about that for a moment, because unless you already know where I’m headed, it may not even strike you as odd. The two places where we spend upwards of 90% of our time also happen to be the two places which demand the most productivity from us. And that’s putting aside the rest our time which is often spent rushing from one to the other.
That there are people and tasks in our lives which place responsibilities on us is not a bad thing in and of itself. Kids need dinner, dogs need kibble, widgets need selling (so that there is something to feed kids and dogs). And something deep within us wants to be useful. Maybe that’s why, even in the garden, God gave Adam a job, to name the animals, rather than just languish about in his Spiderman boxers all day. I’ve been there. It’s not a happy place.
But in the age of the 60 hour work week, of which we seem so proud, and the age of helicopter parenting, where parents increasingly feel pressured to fit themselves into their kids schedule rather than the other way around, something very important has dropped out of our society so quietly that most of us didn’t even realize it was missing. We just realized we were tired and stressed.
I notice it mostly among middle class Americans of European decent. Seem too specific? I don’t see other cultures struggling with it in quite the same way, at least not as acutely. And everywhere I’ve traveled in the old world, the Europeans themselves seem to have retained what the US has done away with. The Brits have their pubs. The French have their cafés. The Spanish have their tapas bars. The Italians have their bistros. The Germans have their biergartens.
I’m talking about the third space. Somehow, in some misguided attempt at puritanical revolt against fun and leisure, we seem to have eliminated from our culture the place between work and home that is free of demand. The place where we are defined not by our doing but just by our being. The place where the modern world slows down for a time and we can catch our breath.
It’s ironic that this third space-less culture grew out of what we call the “protestant work ethic,” since, in fact, the Judeo-Christian tradition, is the only one of the world’s major religions with a standing commandment to rest.
We’re the only ones who posit that God built an entire day of rest into the most basic rhythms of creation.
When Pharaoh said “make more bricks,” God said, “stop” (saba-oht or Sabbath).
When Nebuchadnezzar told the Babylonian captives, You’ll be defined by how well you fit in, God told them, No, you’ll be defined by how you Sabbath.
When Jesus wanted to describe his mission statement he described it as bringing a universal jubilee (a year of zero productivity for the land and restoration for the people who work it).
When he wanted to portray via parable the outcome to which the whole world is heading, he portrayed it like a Wedding feast, which, in a first century Jewish town, everyone would’ve attended and all business would cease (notice the people who upset the host of the party are those who keep right on working).
When he wanted to enact that outcome in his own story, he had everyone sit down to break bread and drink wine.
It’s time to reclaim the third space.
Cheers and Peace,
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