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  • Jered Stewart

Freedom to Breathe

Stop me if you’ve heard this before - “You can be anything you want to be if you put your mind to it.” This is what we teach our children. As a parent, I sometimes wonder, will they go to college? Where will they go? How will we afford it? What will they be when they grow up? There are so many choices for them. And there are just as many choices for each of us, and honestly, it is overwhelming!

Our society has convinced us that what we have is never enough and the only solution is something new, more or different. Unfortunately, we have been enculturated to believe that choice equals freedom. This is the American way. We want what we want, when we want it and how we want it. Did you know that Americans now consume twice as many goods and services per person than we did in 1945? Consumer spending now accounts for 70% of our economy!

In Wayne Muller’s book Sabbath, he refers to this subject as the “tyranny of choice.” We might think that our independence and ability to decide every detail of our life provides us with freedom. Not so says Muller. In fact, the opposite is true. Freedom of choice can be suffocating as we drown in a sea of options. Freedom of choice does not equal freedom.

The word “sabbath” may evoke different feelings depending upon our upbringing and spiritual traditions. However, I think most of us would agree that the idea of taking time on a regular basis to escape our routine, to step back, pause, and rest, is an essential component to good spiritual and physical health. This is something that our society does not practice enough.

I encourage you all to consider taking a sabbath, whether that is an entire day, or an afternoon, or just a few hours per week. Be intentional. Discard the vast array of choices and be grateful for all that you have. Count your blessings, naming them one by one. I know from personal experience that by taking a sabbath rest - focusing upon what we do have and being thankful for it - we are much more likely to find the contentment for which we long. It will never be found in a short-lived, new acquisition or in the array of endless choices that merely create a greater hunger and thirst for more of what we do not have. Stop and rest, enjoy life as it is, reflect, be thoughtful, and have peace with who you are and what you have.

“Sabbath restrictions on work and activity actually create a space of great freedom; without these self-imposed restrictions, we may never be truly free.” – Wayne Muller

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