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“Here, then, is the hard work of Sabbath,” I wrote in my journal. “Awoken by dreams of a house never found and people mocking for it. Nightmares of life falling apart. I come to consciousness ready for a fight. Ready to re-double my to-do list, spend the day house hunting, clear all emails.

Perhaps this is one of those ragged pieces of me that needs to be tucked back away… the American assuredness that working just a little bit harder will bring about the desired results. The Sabbath – the call to rest and to worship – calls me to remember that every good and perfect gift comes from above. From my Heavenly Father who does give good gifts.”

And so, instead of fighting the morning’s panic of failure by throwing myself more into work, I pulled out the next Henri Nouwen book on my reading list and prepared to spend a day of rest.

***

“Why don’t you believe that God gives his children good gifts?” asked my coworker.
Nearly a year later, her question still rings in my ears.
I was telling her about an opportunity that seemed perfect. Seemed so perfect, I doubted it could be true. Looking for the bad teeth in the gift horse’s mouth.

It’s a question that came up again recently.
“Why do you expect disappointment?” she asked me.
And I knew that I do. I know that I’m surprised and suspicious when something good happens. Surprised that it actually happened and suspicious that it’s been given to me only for the purposes of taking it away later. Instead of the twisted “health and wealth” gospel, I’ve twisted too far in the opposite direction. I’ve become wary of all blessing.

***

Instead of a day of rest, the Sabbath turned into a day of many errands. All of the things I was tempted to orchestrate myself ended up being delivered to my front door.

Not only did a friend take me to an empty apartment that will shortly become my new home, it’s also a perfect place to hold classes. I went from having neither to having both all in one day.

A friend came to my home and we experimented in the kitchen and – amid much laughter – came up with a delicious concoction.

And there was the chance to tell that beautiful, beautiful Story. The Story that calls us to cease striving. To stop trying to earn it and do it all ourselves. The Story that says the God with impossibly high standards does not mock us for failure – but steps in to provide everything we need.

It’s a story that I still find hard to believe. I still prefer long stretches of penance and emotional self-flagellation. I am still capable of looking at all blessing – even this one – with more cynicism than thanks.

But this time, as I sip chai with my new landlords and imagine how I’ll lay out my new apartment, I’m trying to keep the hounds of skepticism at bay.

God does indeed give good gifts. This I will try to believe.

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