When I started college, I vowed that I would visit the east coast before graduating. Compared to Nebraska, Indiana is so far east that I could almost smell the salty ocean air—I wasn’t going to let this opportunity slip away. The classic road trip experience was waiting for me: a car uncomfortably full of friends, a vague plan waiting to be filled in with details along the way, cheap motels and campsites, spontaneous decisions, oceans I have only seen from plane windows, carefree miles on the road, the country girl exploring big cities.
As my last semester began, I sat in two of my friends’ room and recruited them for my irresponsible plan. While we should have been doing homework, we dreamt of the adventure we would soon have. But we knew it couldn’t really happen. Our spring breaks already had plans. The east coast road trip devolved into a weekend of camping. Then, as our weekends filled with homework and graduation day wouldn’t stop edging closer, we settled for a day trip. We wanted time away from school and deadlines. We wanted fresh air and movement, to fill our lungs and stretch our muscles. We wanted to cook over a fire, a pause from the monotony of the cafeteria.
So we pulled on our sneakers, packed a few bags full of snacks, rose with the dawn, and, on the recommendation from a beloved geology professor, drove south to Turkey Run State Park.It was more gorgeous than I could have imagined. Stone canyon walls wove their way high above our heads. Sunlight, tinted green, filtered down through leaves; dust danced in the soft glow. Trees grew on boulders, on cliffs. Roots crawled along rock, somehow finding nourishment and crevices to sink into. We walked barefoot through icy streams, up small waterfalls. We spent two hours making a lunch out of cans: beans, corn, hot dogs, peaches, and biscuits over a fire. We watched canoes laze down the river we crossed on a swaying bridge. We reveled in our hours in the wilderness.On this Sunday in early May, I found myself steeped in wilderness, adrift in sunshine and friendship. It was an important trip to take: a bold proclamation and practice of Sabbath. It was a risk. Staying on campus to protect our hours of sleep and homework would have been safe and comfortable. As Shauna Niequist tweeted, “I’m learning the Sabbath is more than an opportunity–it’s an obedience, recalibrating our hearts away from proving, back to love” (26 April 2015). We stepped away from the whirlwind of school to recalibrate ourselves—remembering that the whole of our value is not defined by grades and exams. The largeness and intricacy of the park we walked through let our souls expand into their fullness, I think.
I want to say something, too, about friendship.
Friendship has not been an easy thing for me: I have been slow to learn that it requires great perseverance and sacrifice and a measure of trust and a willingness to let go of control. Friendship is a risk, as is Sabbath. If you take a day off in the middle of the semester to go hiking, homework may not get finished, hard questions may be asked of you, a few hours of sleep may need to be sacrificed, your faults may be discovered.
But the two women I ventured to Turkey Run State Park with reminded me that friendship is a risk worth taking. They stepped into the wilderness with me (that day and many days before and since) and dug into uncomfortable places. I think that like Sabbath, friendship is an obedience: a practice of loving our neighbors but not trying to prove our own abilities of love in doing so; rather relying on the love that God first showed us.
How can you practice Sabbath and friendship this week?