The fast pace of the opening verse in Jonny Diaz's song, Breathe, expresses well the day to day style of living we find most common in our culture. But when he sings, “Breathe, just breathe. Come and rest at my feet And be, just be” the words seem to hang, suspended in air; the pause is palpable. I long to stay suspended in between the fast pulsing verses right where the pause eases me down into a soft, restful place.
In her book Sabbath Keeping, Donna Schaper says, “Not to keep sabbath is like receiving a beautiful gift and forgetting to say thank you. It is like staring at a banquet and complaining that there is nothing good to eat.” For me it might be like believing there is never enough time for renewal while wasting time depleting my energy with mind numbing activities.
Several years ago I invested a chunk of time studying Sabbath rest (the fourth commandment) because I was in great need of rest and curious if it was still relevant; so few people practice it these days I had begun to think it had gone out of style. Is the commandment to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy meant for us modern folk with our increased sense of importance? I believe The Ten Commandments are for all time, so then remembering the Sabbath must still be relevant. Besides have you noticed four verses are used to cover the fourth commandment while the other nine require one verse each? I don't believe this means it is more important, but I suspect it is because it would be the easiest for us to rationalize ignoring it.
But what does it mean to remember the Sabbath, keep it holy and rest on the seventh day? And how does this translate into my life in this day and age? Interestingly I was pressed to study the Sabbath rest just a few years before attending graduate school, a time when my schedule was stretched beyond anything I had ever experienced or believed I could manage.
Fast forward through a graduate degree, including an internship while working full time, to a career change, two moves and a wedding; I married a man in ministry. All of these changes had turned my routine inside out. In the midst of all the changes while attempting to regain some form of equilibrium, my Sabbath rest thinned out and without notice disappeared. I had become oblivious to what rested and renewed me; when overwhelmed I found a culturally acceptable means of escape: social media. Ugh! I soon found myself both frustrated and bored as I escaped stress by zoning out on the Internet. How had I become so disconnected from rest and renewal? How had I gotten off course?
As a counselor I come across many articles on mindfulness: a way of staying present and focused. Recently, a longing grew within me to be more present to the presence of God and more attuned to what He desires from me in the moment. I've returned again to the discipline of Sabbath rest and discovering ways to make adjustments to my week so I can experience a deepened awareness of God and renewal.
“Keeping sabbath is a decidedly different way of living: it is deeply counter-cultural. It is living out an intentional witness, a resistance to the way things are. When we live differently, we live with God,” writes Donna Schaper. It is true: to live the way of God is counter-cultural. In Romans 12:2 Paul tells us “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Donna's words challenge me: “We say 'no' to a scripting of our life that is without play or rest or grace. We say 'yes' to a life that is grounded in God's grace, and then we receive more than we could ever have imagined of rest and play. For sabbath keeping allows us time to love, and thus restores to us the joy of our salvation.”
I have to ask myself:
As Jesus multiplied a little boy's lunch to feed 5,000, can I trust Him to multiply my acts of service on the six days given for work? It isn't all up to me, though sometimes I act like it.
Do I want to restore the joy of my salvation, or do I want to grind my teeth and harvest bitterness from burn out?
As I return to a routine revolving around a Sabbath rest I experiment with what slows me down and refocuses time on God, relishing in the week's accomplishments. Without stopping to enjoy the completion of tasks, we are driven to do more, thinking we've done less. Does that make sense? It does to me. We take for granted all we do not stop to appreciate.
What kinds of things do you do to create Sabbath rest? What activities are restful for you? Some things I find truly restful: reading, watching a movie with my husband, sitting outside and listening to the birds, a walk in the woods or by the lake, planting flowers, or drawing.