Everyone should have a hammock! Or at least they should have something that functions like a hammock.
For me, a hammock means setting aside my worries and my “to do” list. It means trusting God to keep the world spinning. It means getting myself out of central position and choosing to rest and appreciate the gifts of my immediate surroundings.
When I climb into a hammock, even for a few minutes, I feel instantly released from demands. I stop overworking and start noticing the breeze, the light and the sound of the birds. I allow myself to feel carried by divine providence. I am literally suspended from the things that have a tendency to weigh me down.
I first discovered the joy of hammocks while traveling in Central and South America.
I remember hammocks by the river, hammocks on the veranda, and hammocks inside the pousada, strategically placed to receive sounds, aromas, and fresh air from the open window. I remember rope hammocks and woven cloth hammocks, colorful hammocks and plain hammocks, voluminous hammocks and cocoon-like hammocks and hammocks made more comfortable by pillows.
One rainy day, while shopping in São Paulo, Brazil, with my daughter and son-in-law, the possibility of buying a hammock of my own came to me as a revelation. I could put a hammock in my own back yard!
And so I did.
I brought a hammock home from Brazil and stretched it under an apricot tree, near some roses. I committed to spending at least twenty minutes a day enfolded in its warmth.
The idea was to express my trust in God in a physical way, and to introduce more tranquility into my life. Among the (no doubt obvious) things I learned from my time in the hammock in those years is that hummingbirds actually hum! It was a delight to be in their company and aware of their activity.
When I moved from that house in San Diego to an apartment in Redondo Beach, my hammock became an inside hammock, hanging from a solid beam in a room filled with sunlight. It continued to keep me connected to God’s promises of reassurance and comfort whenever I gave myself the chance to take a little bit of sabbath time in the middle of a hard day or a busy week.
In the Bible, the word “sabbath” is used to describe the gift of restful renewal that God gives to God’s people.
God encouraged one day out of every seven to be set aside for activities that strengthen relationships and nourish appreciation for life. People were commanded to rest and not work; to worship and wonder; to remember God’s deep care for them and for all creation.
Today, people pursue and appreciate a variety of ways for connecting with the sabbath experience.
Some periodically journey to a special location for a day or more of retreat, which could involve silence, prayer, meditation, healthy eating, and/or guided reflection. Some build their sabbath around unhurried meal with family and friends, in which the group lingers over favorite foods and open conversation. Some find that a good dose of being out in nature awakens their awareness of God’s grace and goodness.
Participation in a communal service of worship pairs well with any of these activities. So does the practice of taking time off from the hyper connectivity and continual availability made possible by the devices we seem to always have with us.
A restorative afternoon nap likewise partakes in the spirit of Sabbath.
The wisdom and helpfulness of the ancient tradition of a day of rest becomes clear when we are able to include one or more of these possibilities (or something like them) into our weekly routines. For me, periodically spending time in a hammock is a life-giving habit. I wish for everyone to be able to enjoy a similar gift.
We all can benefit from, and be blessed by, resting in the assurance of God’s love. We all can bless the world by appreciating and enjoying the opportunities for peacefulness that are offered to us.
The Rev. Dr. April Herron serves as Associate Pastor of Rolling Hills United Methodist Church. She is currently in Brazil, hanging out (yes, in a hammock) with her newborn grandson.