This extract is from the book Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives by Wayne Muller. The theme resonates deeply with us.

Progress is the road to the new and improved promised land. At the end of progress, we will all have peak efficiency, superior productivity, and an elevated standard of living. We will have thoroughly mastered nature and all its inherent problems, we will all live in a place and time in which all will be well, all diseases cured, and all wars ended, with a chicken in every pot. We are on the glory road, hurtling toward the eschaton. There is no time to rest, because we are on a very important mission, to boldly go where no species has gone before. Every moment is a necessary investment in the divinely ordained and completely unquestioned goal of progress. What we are building for the future is infinitely more important than whatever we have right now.

If the promised land is the good and perfect place, then where we are right now must be an imperfect place, a defective place, the land of suffering and tribulation, and the sooner we get into the good and perfect future—the only place where we will ever be truly happy and at peace—the better off we will all be. This means that we have to work hard and long and never, ever rest because our main task is to get the hell out of here.

But there is no place to go. Every time we finally reach the future, it vanishes into the present. This perplexing tendency of the future to keep eluding us does not, of course, teach us to be more present, but rather to accelerate faster. We redouble our straining toward the future, never stopping to see where we are, we despoil our nest, we ruin our air and soil, because it is all dispensable, we will not be here long, because here is no good. Our true nourishment will come when we are successful, where we are rich, when we are saved, when it is our turn. Thus, satisfaction and delight are forever just out of reach. This, then, is the theology of progress. Only when we get to the end can we lie down in green pastures, be led beside still waters, and allow our soul to be restored.

But we must ask this question: What if we are not going anywhere? What if our life is simply a time when we are blessed with both sadness and joy, health and disease, courage and fear—and all the while we work, pray, and love, knowing that the promised land we seek is already present in the very gift of life itself, the inestimable privilege of a human birth? What if this single human life is itself the jewel in the lotus, the treasure hidden in the field, the pearl of great price? What if all the way to heaven is heaven?

Sabbath challenges the theology of progress by reminding us that we are already and always on sacred ground. The gifts of grace and delight are present and abundant; the time to live and love and give thanks and rest and delight is now, this moment, this day. Feel what heaven is like; have a taste of eternity. Rest in the arms of the divine. We do not have miles to go before we sleep. The time to sleep, to rest, is now. We are already home.

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