I have a confession to make … I’m not very good at following rules. I don’t mean to be rebellious, I just float through life doing things my way and don’t pay attention to inconveniences like “exit only” signs (much to my oldest child’s chagrin).
So here I sit, thinking about the 10 commandments. I take the Word of God very seriously, and even in my fickle ways, I know that holiness and purity matter in the Kingdom of Heaven. Not being much for legalism, I tend to lean towards the “heart” of these commands, as Jesus addresses in Matthew 5. In spite of that, there are some of these famous 10 that we take very seriously – “do not murder, do not steal”, while other commands we find it easier to fudge a bit – “do not covet your neighbors stuff”. And since I can’t stand inconsistency in life, what gives? Why do we value some of the “big 10” while blowing off others?
This came to a head in my personal life when I was recently challenged to take the Sabbath a bit more seriously. To incorporate rest into my life on a regular basis. In my family, we tend to live an ebb and flow lifestyle – much of it out of necessity given the ministry God lets us be a part of. This means that we go all out for a few months until we can barely pick ourselves up off the floor and then we try to get away to refill and restore for the next “all out” season. This works – but I’m beginning to realize that there might be a better way.
In fact, this is not God’s original design. Jesus often refers to “how it was in the beginning” – so let’s go back there.
In the beginning, God designed a breathtaking creation – filled with intricate minute detail and overflowing raucous extravagances of creativity. This didn’t tire Him out – He is God and this is just the overflow of who He is. But nonetheless, on the 7th day, He modeled for us a day of rest.
In God’s top ten list of commandments, He says, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20)
I don’t know about you, but for much of my adult life, that “keeping it holy” part has meant “go to church”. But I’m wondering if there’s much more here that I have been missing. So come down this road with me a bit – I’m excited about what I’m discovering!
Our modern evangelical world tends to celebrate breaking from tradition. It wants the freedom and freshness of interpreting Scripture “personally” rather than following the age old traditions. It’s not wrong to embrace some of that freedom, but I think we often miss out because we don’t take the time to explore the traditions that we are a product of. Understand them. Follow the links to the original story to find the richness and the ways they feed the souls of generations.
We miss the beauty in verses like these: “Then He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28 – emphasis added). In our passion to break free of the legalism of the past, we miss little words like “for” – this Sabbath rest, this seventh day, this holy space is a gift from a Creator who knows we are dust and has provided a way for us to walk strong.
And then this! The echoes of our glorious future that God weaves into our present. The promise of what is to come that gives us strength for today. In speaking of that future day when we who trust in Jesus will rest all our sorrows, release all our burdens, lay everything at His feet, the writer of Hebrews says this: “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God” Hebrews 4:9.
It would seem God is weaving into the weekly fabric of our lives the great promise of eternity! In Ecclesiastes 3, Solomon tells us that God has set eternity in the hearts of man – is this part of it? Looking forward to the wonders of eternity by purposefully choosing rest one day a week?
But I mean, let’s be realistic – I’m a mom. 3 kids (and one very handsome husband) want to eat regularly. And I guess ice cream for breakfast doesn’t cut it. So whenever I have thought of “Sabbath-ing” in the past, I have shrugged it off as an unrealistic expectation that obviously doesn’t apply to mothers – or anyone else with regular responsibilities in life. And so I subconsciously resented those who might suggest I should try, wallowing in a little self pity while I’m at it.
I guess that’s why this recent wake up call has captured my imagination. Because what if? What if there was a way to purposefully make this happen? So I’ve been trying to think more pro-actively. Letting creativity have a bit more reign in my schedule. Saying “no” a little more often. And here’s what I’ve discovered over the last month.
It’s not as much about “not doing” as it is about “doing the day differently”. This speaks to a different place in each of our lives. In this interview with John Piper, he suggests that we approach the Sabbath as celebrating a different part of life than we get to live every other day of the week. (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1upfCmBy-kA) If your work requires you to be at a desk all day, then go outside! If your work is as a farmer, construction worker, someone who is outside in the elements all day, then sit on your couch and let your body rest! Take a break from the normal so that the different can speak to your heart. Our lives are all unique and each season requires different things from us – the day we take, may actually look like only an hour or two when you have a newborn. The point I’m trying to get at is how to find a window to be purposeful about making your day of rest a priority!
My typical days at home are filled with cooking and dishes and laundry and decisions. So where I used to say “I can’t just stop doing all that”, I now ask myself how I can plan ahead so that for one day a week, I do less. That Sunday morning rush is my undoing – so I’ve asked my family to let me find a different way and not make a breakfast that morning. Sometimes I plan ahead and buy muffins or something they can grab that’s special. Sometimes it’s just a frozen waffle – but it’s something that won’t make a mess I’ll have to clean up later, and it’s something that I don’t have to make.
I pick out the kid’s church clothes the night before.
I spend an extra half hour Saturday night emptying the dishwasher, cleaning up the sink, taking care of details so that I won’t be drawn to handling the mess at all on my Sabbath – it has a place to go and I can deal with it again on Monday.
I am a putterer. If I have to walk to my bedroom, I will clean 5 things on my way and then forget why I was going in the first place. I have a terribly hard time sitting still – my kids sometimes have to remind me to just be with them and not do something else on the side. This one day, I let myself sit. I watch my kids play. I play with them, and when that voice in my head tells me to take care of the dust bunnies under the couch, I let myself smile and say, “tomorrow, dust bunnies – tomorrow”.
I rest from my phone. That random little game that I unwind with some nights. Those check-ins on the world of facebook and instagram – all the things we just “have” to do can suddenly wait. It’s about curbing impulses to cultivate a quiet space. I’m finding that part harder than I had expected, but it is so freeing!
I light a candle that I love. A candle that is special and I save for just this day. The gentle smell reminds me of beauty and makes my soul breathe. It’s an echo of the age old Jewish tradition of lighting the Shabbat candle, and it makes me smile. (http://www.jtsa.edu/the-meaning-of-the-shabbat-candles)
These are things I do to remind myself that God cares. He cares about our work and He cares about our rest. He cares about rhythm and balance and peace. He cares about our health. And so I want it to matter to me as well.
The irony of all this is I sit here on a Saturday plunking out these thoughts on the verge of our busiest 6 weeks of ministry in the year. Tomorrow is my Sabbath, and then it will be 6 weeks before I get the opportunity to practice this again. I needed to write this today – so I could be reminded in August that this matters.
Since this is all a new focus for me and I feel like I’m experimenting, asking God to show me new things, I’d love to hear if this is something important in your life. How do you set the Sabbath apart? I’d love to learn more!