From time to time over the next several months I plan to put short drafts up on the blog that I’m writing for the Sabbath book. I worked on the following piece this morning. Feedback is appreciated, keeping in mind that it’s a first draft.
I have a pair of red-handled scissors. They’ve been mine since seventh grade, when I took a home ec class. They’re fabric scissors, with which I cut out material for a simple elastic-waist skirt (blue plaid) and made throw pillows for my sister that spelled our her name. K-A-T-I-E. But I don’t sew anymore, so these scissors now live in our kitchen junk drawer and are used for paper, clothing tags, evil clamshell packaging, and even the occasional stray wisp of hair. They’re left-handed scissors, so they’re precious to me. They are as tight and precise as they were when I was 12.
I wrote my name in Sharpie on the inside of one of the blades when I first got them. MaryAnn McKibben. When I got married I crammed “Dana” on there too. They have been with me for some 26 years.
They’re gone now.
But this is not about the loss, or the nagging silly grief of missing something I’ve had for so long.
Friday my kids and I had a flurry of a day, getting errands done to get ready for Saturday’s Sabbath and for a visit from friends over the weekend. We grocery shopped, we shoe shopped, we took cardboard to the recycling center. Margaret and James handed me boxes (squabbling over whose turn it was) while I slashed through old packing tape to make everything flat and compact.
As I slammed the back hatch of the van, I turned to Margaret and said, “Please put these back in the junk drawer for me.”
She did not do that. And we have no idea what she did with them. I suspect that she absent-mindedly threw them in the trash can—a likely occurrence since she did the same thing that night with the spoon she used at dinner.
But this is not about the peculiarities of the five-year-old brain.
I discovered they were gone because the weather stripping is coming off the bottom of our front door and I wanted to snip off that flapping tail, just really quick, so it wouldn’t flop around every time we opened or closed the door. The realization of the missing scissors led to a brief but fruitless search and a short interrogation of Margaret, who had no idea where she’d put them.
I discovered they were gone on Saturday, our Sabbath day, the day we don’t cut loose weather stripping from the front door, except that we do. I do. And I was reminded they were gone at least twice more on that supposed day of rest. A new box of cat litter—the cat boxes could use a top-off. A stubborn plastic tag on the previous day’s clothing purchase from Target–would really like to wear that today. But no scissors. It wasn’t my Sabbath commitment that stopped me from completing those tasks, it was the lack of proper tools.
I tell myself that I let a little work creep in to the day of rest to get ready for our guests. Hospitality is a virtue too, even on the Sabbath… not that our friends care about a flap of weather stripping or an additional half-inch of cat litter. But it’s not really about that either. Because the work always nags on the Sabbath. Always.
I don’t regret this experiment. The fact that I anticipate the arrival of each Saturday with the giddy relief of a kid at Christmas suggests that there’s something right about it. But the impulse to tidy, to beautify, to make it all better, is overwhelming.
And that’s what this is about. This is about a commitment to do something simple, but not easy: To stop changing things. To stop controlling the chaos for one blasted, blessed day.
This is about my inability to stop that completely. This is about my inability… but also my ability, my incredible ability, to tame chaos. My sharp eye toward a stray sock on the floor, which gets dispensed with a quick toss down the laundry chute (aka basement stairs). The efficient way I sweep the discarded stuffed animal into my arms for a trip down the stairs where it belongs.
Maybe it doesn’t matter that I “cheat.” These are trifles. Nobody’s grading me. I get to define the parameters of this thing. But I wonder what it would be like to really and truly stop. To look at the mess and not try to fix it. To let the chaos be a gift for a single day.
If this were a blog with all the answers, and a different view of how God works, the scissors would show up, miraculously, the following day, gleaming as if with a special holy polish.
But they’re still gone.