And I was restless and unhappy.
I wanted to be at Dorky’s in Tacoma or Wunderland in Portland playing a hodgepodge of arcade games crafted in Asia and collected here starting before I was born. I wanted to be in Seattle watching and independent film written in one part of the country, filmed in another with various actors from all over, and delivered to a theater 45 minutes (or more with traffic) from my home. I wanted to be at the Olympic Sculpture Park. Or the Oregon Coast running on wide open sand with my dog. I wanted to be back at Orcas Island sea kayaking to some place I could only get first by ferry then by car then by a short walk and finally by a small boat big enough only for two. I wanted to be in Portland at Bamboo Sushi enjoying fish caught all over the world, flash frozen, and revived to faux freshness for me to enjoy one of the best bites of sushi in the world. As I pulled out my phone, I saw the line up for my favorite hipster Italian pizza/music festival in Sacramento and wanted to be laying out at Fremont Park with pizza, gelato, and a band that lives 12 hours away from me playing. Later that day, we’d watch a food documentary about a restaurant in Italy and I’d want to be there too. Sometimes I look at the moon and get angry that I’ll never be there; it taunts me with its mysterious glow and promises of weightlessness.
With the endless riches, products, talent, and landscapes available to us in a world with planes, trains, automobiles, and the series of tubes we call the internet, this part of me - that I would say is literally insane - opens wide to the historically impossible potential feast of better and better things that are in reach or barely out of reach. Contentment is lost in the tyranny of a placeless existence.
Have you been there? Have you had a day off - a Sabbath - in front of you and been paralyzed to enjoy it because there are so many things you want to do? Have you found yourself spending hours in the car on your day off getting to a place that isn’t yours but that you imagine is somehow better or more enjoyable than yours. But then you’ve lost time to cars and traffic and parking (oh parking). And how much rest is lost to packing (especially if you have kids - I don’t. But I was a nanny. I know the packing regime); making sure you have everything you need before you leave then stressing over the thing you forgot that will make the day that much harder.
And then you get to that place and somewhere in your head you are still haunted by all the other places and things you want to experience or the thing that is next on your agenda for the day and you struggle to just. be. in. this. one. eternal. moment. in. this. one. exquisite. place.
I have lost the riches of so many Sabbaths to being or longing to be in a place that is not mine.
And I read these words that guided God’s people so long ago: “On the Sabbath day you must each stay in your place...” (Exodus 16:29).
You must each stay in your place.
I am not one for legalism on Sabbath. How broken must we be that we make resting an exhausting task? No, I’m not for cumbersome rules. I think Yahweh could rejoice in a trip to the beach, sculpture park, or arcade clad with your favorite twentieth century video games. But there is still that phrase: “You must each stay in your place.”
Sabbath is a day in which we worship by observing the given-ness of our world. The provision of our needs. This world was made abundant with all we need. Each place was crafted and continues to be co-crafted by God (and by us...and let’s face it, sometimes we’re pretty bad at crafting good places) But still, there is joy to be found in every neighborhood. There is a gift there. And Sabbath is meant to be a day of reception. I needn’t strive to find the best enjoyment and rest possible within a hyperbolically extended travelable range of places. I need to rest in the beauty, the plenty, the playfulness, the abundance of my place.
As our world rebels against the confines of place - and often time - we are able to stockpile the riches of many places in a bucket list, a playlist, a que on netflix, or a road trip. And as we pull together the spoils of this artificial placelessness, we inadvertently ridicule the riches of our place.
There is excellent sushi just a mile or so from me; but I want Bamboo Sushi in Portland. There is a sweet affordable ballpark walkable from my home; but I want to go to safeco and watch the Mariners over a chocolate covered fruit kabob. There is beach and mountains and public art in my neighborhood - art planned and crafted by neighbors; but there is the Olympic Sculpture park with art from artists all over the world bought with the money of a man who we say is from Seattle but lives on the Eastside and made his fortune via software that helps us all be placeless. There is excellent music in my neighborhood and there is more and more thanks to some neighbors who are working to cultivate an Everett music scene; but I often want to be every other place listening to world class musicians who are usually not even from the place they have flocked to to make noteable music.
I am so worn out from the choices a placeless world opens up to me. I am so blinded by the treasures travel seems to bring me. I am tired from a sickness that paralyzes me to sit in my chair sipping local coffee with carefully crafted foam art with my cozy jacket on and local birds serenading me and enjoy the feeling of my beloved’s hand in one hand and a good book in the other in the only place I need to be in that eternal moment: my place.
There is not a legalism but a gift in Exodus 16:29. There is a pearl long lost to us in the world of road and cyber travel - and beyond that gift, the removal of blinding scales that have hidden the beauty of each of our neighborhoods from us. May we receive those gentle words of benevolent limitation - of liberating limitation - that Yahweh invites us to just one day out of seven: “You must each stay in your place.”