Strenuous Acts of Will

I recently stumbled across a delightful 2003 article by Judith Shulevitz about the difficulty of observing the Sabbath. In it, she writes,

Most people mistakenly believe that all you have to do to stop working is not work. The inventors of the Sabbath understood that it was a much more complicated undertaking. You cannot downshift casually and easily, the way you might slip into bed at the end of a long day. . . . This is why the Puritan and Jewish Sabbaths were so exactingly intentional, requiring extensive advance preparation—at the very least a scrubbed house, a full larder and a bath. The rules did not exist to torture the faithful. They were meant to communicate the insight that interrupting the ceaseless round of striving requires a surprisingly strenuous act of will, one that has to be bolstered by habit as well as by social sanction.

The exact same thing could be said of other aspects of our walk with God and our relationship to our communities. It’s not simply an act of will on the part of a single individual. Culture and habit are as important in living faithful lives as individual conscience.

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