A few days ago, I rounded the corner of my room to see my eldest son playing a Dr. Seuss game on the PBS kids website, donning an oversized red and white striped stovepipe hat on his head. Ashton wasn’t just playing Cat in the Hat. For a moment, you see, Ashton was the Cat in the Hat. The proof of his identity was in the signature head wear.
Dr. Seuss’ character creation was ingenious, really. Just the cat, with no hat, would be almost unrecognizable. But add the striped stovepipe, and you get one of the most recognizable characters in children’s fiction. The cat’s identity is largely bound up in his hat.
Most of us are a lot like this feline. We wear many hats, and our identity largely comes from the roles we fill in life. If we aren’t careful, we start to believe that our worth comes from the way we perform those roles, too.
That’s one reason why keeping the Sabbath is important – no, vital – for each of us. The Sabbath is a hat-less day. By ceasing to engage in the many tasks that so often form and inform our identities, we let go of some of our hats for the day. In this way, the Sabbath causes us to think long and hard about what our true identity is, and also what defines our worth. Perhaps that is why it is very difficult to cease activity. We feel most comfortable when we are producing something, and we gain a sense of worth from our work.
In the words of Seuss, “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” This week, use a post-it note to capture the hats you most often wear. Place it where you can revisit it often on the Sabbath, and focus on letting go of those roles for a day. Give yourself freedom just to be – not to do, say, act, or perform. That is what hat-less Sabbaths are all about.