Week Eight: Sabbath Joy

I have only just started missing people.

This morning as I run this realization appears out of the misty air. I just passed the Twizzler. I have been stomping by it for two weeks now—have watched it slowly disappear under a wave of ants. It’s down to a stub now.

That’s how I feel when people leave. A stub. Eaten away. A smaller me.

I grieve by moving inside myself. I feel lonely, but I don’t allow myself to miss people.

Missing someone means hurting. It means wanting them to come back. Believing they will.

Missing someone means believing they miss me too.

For me, loss stole a sense of trust that the world moves in predictable cycles. One day, Dad went away and never came back. Somehow, inexplicably, Mom went too. Not literally, but emotionally and mentally. Simple family cycles that could have built trust were derailed—dinner with the whole family, holidays spent side by side, evenings and mornings of family hugs. (L.L. Barkat, God in the Yard).

When I return from my honeymoon, I wake up one morning in the bed I share with my new husband. The sun streams through the window and through me and I am so happy. Suddenly, I know.

This will never last. This can’t be real. This man can’t really love me.

What he and I share resembles nothing of the love I have known thus far. The love I’m familiar with is unstable. Unfaithful. It does not honor or cherish. I don’t understand this clean, healthy love he gives me.

A season of pushing away ensues. I try to make our love what I understand. I try to make it messy. I try to make it hurt. I test his love at every turn and harden my heart—preparing for the inevitable abandon.

He never leaves. He cradles me close instead.

Lynne M. Baab, author of Sabbath Keeping notes that the Hebrew root for the word “Sabbath” includes “pause.” To pause is to trust. It is to reframe presence-absence as presence-hiddenness—a fine line of distinction that speaks to the fear of permanent loss that our early loss experiences can create. (L.L. Barkat, God in the Yard).

Growing up with an alcoholic means I develop a knack for unconditional positive regard. I learn to accept anything. Anyone can do anything, and I’m ok. The ground frequently shifts underneath me, but I must stay standing.

Everyone else can change. But I must never. I have to be vigilant. Anticipate the next earthquake. And shift my feet quickly.

I cannot allow myself to miss someone. What if they never return?

There is no rest from this constant watchfulness. There is no rest.

childhood losses made it hard to embrace a rhythm of presence-hiddenness that exists naturally…(L.L. Barkat, God in the Yard)

My husband taught me about Sabbath rest. He taught me what it means to trust. He showed me the face of God before he even believed. He taught me how to trust that hiddenness is a partner to presence.

And I am learning that to miss someone means the joy of reunion is forthcoming. I trust in the ache of havdalah—the recognition of the departure of the visiting soul on the Sabbath. For she shall return from this hiddenness.

And the ache only increases the joy of the homecoming.

This is written in response to week 8 of L.L. Barkat’s God in the Yard: Spiritual Practice for the Rest of Us. Join me?


  1. says

    I forgot (just temporarily) that you grew up in an alcoholic family.

    This choked me up…

    “I learn to accept anything. Anyone can do anything, and I’m ok.”

    In a way, it has built resilience in us, this ability to survive. But there is something hard about it too. We leave ourselves behind.

    Poignant, Laura.

  2. says

    Iris Murdoch wrote, “The past buries the past and must end in silence, but it can be a conscious silence that rests open-eyed. Perhaps this is the final forgiveness. . . .”

    In your writing, you honor your past and, I think, make peace with it. And that’s where you find your joy: being “open-eyed” to what was and also see what is and can be.

  3. says

    and might I add that sometimes I think I don’t even let myself get attached to begin with. what is the point.

    … that was my honest gut reaction reading you. Of course I know this isn’t true, and I am drawn and smitten and care so so deeply about many people. But . There is still always that survival instinct as L.L. puts . The line before despair.

    I truly believe I am different now… but it took time. Lost time.

    I think about you as you go through these weeks… and hope that you will leave much of this behind finally.

  4. says

    Laura, This particular post makes me cry because you touched upon a place that is so familiar. In 1996, I had my second psychotic episode (the first being in 1992), and what I felt I was dealing with the most was tremendous loss and missing my own self and grieving my own death which I felt at the time was more imminent than in actuality, but the grieving of this eventuality stems so much from our losses as children. I’ve been told that the losses such as you, myself and others have experienced as children cause them to feel that their very survival is in jeopardy. The shifting of the ground while trying to stay stable you described is kind of like one of my doctors described as trying to steady a plate of marbles. I will have to write more about it as I go deeper into God In the Yard, which is kind of scaring me, but your words and posts have given me strength to keep going. Thank you Laura!

  5. says

    An incredible story, and such beautiful truth and honesty, Laura. I don’t know how you do this every day. I am never not wowed when I come here.

  6. says

    Laura, I just stopped by to say hi and you’ve moved me to tears yet again. I’ve missed you!!!

    PS I love the new haircut. Your photo is awesome!!

  7. says

    I don’t know what words to write Laura. I ache for the terrible hurt in your past and for the way it tries to insinuate itself into the present. I am so thankful for your husband and for a God who is never willing to leave us in that place. I am thankful that He will always restore the years the locusts have eaten.

  8. says

    Identified deeply with this one, as I do with many of your posts. Both my grandfathers were alcoholics, most of my uncles, and my father though his life did not come apart as some of theirs did. I say I lived in the eye of the storm, the space where I am, still – everything around very changeable. I did not realize when I first married how carefully I read people, anticipating the next move, so that I am ready for whatever comes next. Though it can be a very useful skill, it isn’t always.

    I do miss people intensely, just as you write here, and respond similarly. Your post is very appreciated at this time. I send hugs across the ether. 🙂 I trust your heart to find its way, because it is a loving heart seeking home.

  9. says

    Thank you for such open and personal words.
    To be vulnerable in sharing parts of ones life is hard and at the same time good.
    You allowed us your readers to walk with you along memory paths.
    Thank you for the honor.

  10. says

    i understand empty days, sweet laura. there is no pressure to link up to imperfect thursdays 🙂 but if you do, i will be delighted. i always anticipate what you’re going to teach me. xo

  11. says

    You paint such vivid pictures:
    Slowly disappearing twizzlers and a post-honeymoon bed.

    What if they never return?

    So thankful God’s picture of faithfulness and unconditional love far exceeds what many of us have known in our own families of origin.

  12. says

    We risk something with our loving… we risk the departure of that loving–a letting go that is sometimes required but never feels very good in the process. To have it the other way, is to live in isolation, and that kind of living really isn’t living at all.

    If there is one thing I know in the life, it’s the “letting go”. I have to do it more times than I can count… a recent profound one comes to mind this evening. What makes it hard is the love investment I’ve made. What keeps me strong?

    The love investment I’ve made.

    I wouldn’t live any other way.

    Thank you for being in my life. You are a real beauty, Laura. You may not think that when you look in the mirror, but I see it, so do others. It’s a beauty that cannot be bought… only received and celebrated.

    Keep to it, sweet one. You are a kindred friend.


  13. says

    Laura, this is so beautiful… I have no words to express how I feel reading it, other than that my breath caught in my throat, and I’m still trying to release it.

  14. says

    interesting how you tied the ability “to trust that hiddenness” with the Sabbath. I have never considered trusting in another person to be a form of rest. But yes, yes, yes. There is nothing more ‘letting go’ than to fall in the arms of someone you love.

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