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Somehow (who can fathom the ways of the poetic imagination?), the story of Jonah’s time in the belly of the whale made me think of my own Sabbath-keeping. I spend the day in the same space where my ordinary activities and ‘props’ are housed, but they are ‘strangely reconfigured,’ and must await my emergence from Sabbath rest to be taken up.
Whereas, in daily life, I am an actor, on Sabbath days my act of freedom is the non-action of waiting to be acted upon, carried, laid low, returned to utter dependence on God. Though I enjoy pursuing goals, these Sabbath days relax my hold upon them, much as Jubilee years served to put property ownership and demands for debt repayment in eternal perspective for the Jews.
I actually did once have an opportunity for an enormous ‘Sabbath’ – a long sabbatical journey, from which I emerged so profoundly rested that I felt called to carry a message from God to others about His provision for the soul’s rest. Hence, the ‘Holy Leisure Trilogy’ about the blessings and implications of the Eucharistic Sabbath.
Could it be, the whale
that swallowed Jonah was a day?
Sunlight stretched taut across a frame
of hours regular as ribs; A chamber, welcome
in the storm-tossed sea, ultimately no escape, but
respite nonetheless; Cozy, close, interior contours
lined with flesh: the guts and skin and muck of daily life;
Space furnished with the ordinary flotsam – washed, wave-tossed,
strangely reconfigured; A homey parody of home awaiting on
a distant, hoped-for shore. Within the double depths and
detritus a calm, or welcome, really; Profound shelter,
awful silence, being undisturbed by waves; A stage
set to quell action, dwarf the actor, silence scripts;
Here the protagonist merely waits …to be…
acted upon, dissolved, moved, or consumed.
But then the mercy-full ocean, or its king,
(who pinions agitated, wandering,
rebellious prophets in a dark
deliverance) coughs up a soul
restored and rectified despite
himself, ready now to follow
with humility and praise;
relaxed, his stronghold,
upon futures, goals,
A day once swallowed me whole
and remained in me as I remained inside.
I sunk through time into eternity,
with a word.
All the poems are now in one volume, and I’d love for you to have a copy! Click on the cover to buy it, and click here for the recordings of all the poems.