“Most of the things we need to be most fully alive never come in busyness. They grow in rest.”
(Mark Buchanan, The Holy Wild: Trusting in the Character of God)
I’m slightly amused at the topic thrown my way. For me, a Type A personality, honouring this commandment seems to go against my nature. However, I suspect that is the case for most of us … We all need to be reminded of the gift of the Sabbath and how sacred rest benefits our body, mind, and spirit. We all long for rest – real rest. Have you ever found yourself daydreaming about another life because of stress or feeling stuck in busyness? A few times in my life I’ve actually wanted to get sick enough that I could land in the hospital, therefore having a good reason to stop the crazy, busy pace – to forget, at least for a time, life’s demands. The Sabbath day gift is the remedy for stress, busyness, and the business of life. Sacred rest is an invitation to stop doing and be. Truthfully, it’s more than an invitation … It’s a command.
“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days, the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day He rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11, NLT)
The first thing that strikes me about this commandment is that God, our Creator, worked for six days, then rested. Imagine God, the Creator of heaven and Earth, the omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent God, our Master and Lord … resting! How arrogant we can be at times thinking we don’t need to observe this same rhythm for our own lives. We were made in His image – so He knows the necessity for us to rest our bodies, refresh our minds, and strengthen our spirits on a weekly basis. Turns out God’s law is not just a rule or even a good idea. To paraphrase Ken Shigematsu, author of God In My Everything, the gift of Sabbath oasis gives us permission to take a break from the busyness of work and to place our thoughts and mind on other things; to practice entrusting our livelihood into God’s hands; to dwell in God’s love and His validation of us as His children, not in what we achieve but in who loves us. As we grow in that relationship we learn to trust God more fully.
For much of my life, I was too busy to rest and felt good about myself only when I had completed my to-do list by the end of each day. There was a sense of pride about my capacity to accomplish many tasks, meetings, activities, demands, etc., in the span of a certain period of time. I wore this, in my mind, like a badge of honour. But I can tell you from experience that this frenetic lifestyle is hard on relationships: marriages, children, co-workers, and just about anyone in your circle of influence. Living life in this depleted state for many years, I failed more at my relationships than I care to remember. Too often the people I said I loved the most were the people who got the worst of me at the end of the day. This way of living, of finding my value, my purpose, my worth through busyness and work was just a symptom of much deeper issues and a matter of my heart condition. I was on a path to death, not life.
In my state of emotional burn-out and crisis, God helped me to seek priorities for my life that included shaping my day to spend time listening to my own thoughts, aligning my thoughts with God’s through reading the Bible and praying. I discovered the necessity of taking one day to actually rest my body; to change the rhythm of my week from work to celebrating God and family and participating in activities that brought life and not death. Don’t think for one minute that I’ve always gotten this right … I’m still a Type A personality, and still battle the urge to accomplish and catch up and do. But I know the cost. I believe God knows better than I do about what’s most needed in my life and appreciate the seriousness of sacred rest.
What Does Sacred Rest Look Like?
So, let’s say you join me in that belief … Now what? What does a Sabbath day look like? What does choosing life look like? Each person is uniquely different in this. Jon Caldwell in his message, “Sacred Rest” last weekend pointed this out by giving us the example of gardening. Gardening for him is most definitely work, while one of our other pastors remarked that gardening feeds his soul. One’s pleasure may be another’s work. As an introvert by nature, my spirit, my soul, and my body are renewed by a day, generally alone, sewing or gardening. Many of my friends have expressed to me that sewing is an exercise in frustration for them. But for me, these fairly mindless acts bring great pleasure as I create and putter, and these activities free up my mind from work thoughts to think and meditate on life-giving thoughts … To be still … To consider all the good in life and many gifts from God. I am refreshed and restored. As unique as each individual human being is, our rest and restorative acts represent the same uniqueness.
What are the things that feed your soul? That lead you to life, not death? For you, being refreshed may be celebrating family, fly fishing, or reading a good book. Many Calgarians love to enjoy the outdoors, walking, hiking, or biking. However you answer these questions, choose those activities to bring life to your weary body, your overloaded mind, and your weakened soul. By contrast, what activities, what distractions are leading you down the path to death? Consider how technology, social media, gaming, binge-watching TV may be doing little to restore and bring life and could very well be doing the opposite. One of the keys to keeping the Sabbath day holy is freeing up our minds to consider good and God.
Another key component to keeping the Sabbath day holy is gathering together weekly for worship, praise, prayer, and celebrating who God is and all He has done. We give all our focus to Him. This too is life-giving and helps us to press the reset button each week. We have many voices coming at us throughout the week – voices from culture, from co-workers, news and social media. Coming together as the church gives us the opportunity to collectively and individually hear God’s voice. His voice gives us peace, comfort, and rest. We hear truth proclaimed and this helps us to stay faithful and true to Him. God is everywhere and can and does meet us anywhere, but there’s a certain outpouring from God on His people when we gather together that we miss when we neglect this part of the Sabbath day. This is a mystery I don’t fully understand, but it’s a critical part of rest for the whole person as we together bless God in the gathering.
Do you long for rest, real rest for your soul, mind, and body? As you examine the rhythms of your life, what changes do you need to make so you can fully live as God intended?
“Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.”
(Augustine of Hippo)
– Written by Heather Wile
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