What does a Sabbath practice look like in a non-Jewish, modern-day lifestyle?
Over the past several months, my personal research project of observing the Sabbath has resulted in very differently practiced Holy days. Each week has been unique. I’ve kept a journal documenting each week’s highs and lows, hits and misses, in an effort to better understand the benefits of following a law set by my Lord. However, it is not my desire to create a formula (aka legalism) out of this holiday with God. I’d rather relax in His company.
My observation is, however that I gravitate toward structure. My body seems to already have a built-in alarm clock that rings the times for things that I do. Eat time! Work time! Rest time! Wouldn’t it be convenient if I could predict my needs ahead of time? Then I could calendar my life (even color code it!) and I could stay balanced.
When do I schedule illness or insomnia?
When do I factor in death and grieving?
How do I predict when the dog runs away, or the car breaks down?
These are very common, very normal life events that I don’t want to have happen! But they do. And they are the things that are not typically predictable. They are the wild card in the game of life.
What does this have to do with practicing Sabbath? It’s that tendency to want to control it too. So, before I get into a to-do list for resting, I want to highlight how silly that concept even is! When I first began this “project,” I went on the web and watched a YouTube video of a Jewish family participating in a Friday night Shabbat meal. Why? Because I wanted to know how to do this. I was looking for bumpers on the lane to a 10-pin strike! I wanted not just how to play, but how to win!
As I mentioned in my first Sabbath post, Observing the Sabbath-Part 1, I was inspired by a book that gave modern take on this ancient practice. But then I went all “head heavy” reading and researching…of all things…rest. I see in myself a slavery to “knowledge as success.” But in keeping a practice of stopping, I’ve noticed that it’s my hyperactive head that gets a rest and my heart that takes its place in the lead.
LEADING WITH THE HEART
The heart is a term that I use to define the part of a person that is true and pure. It’s that child within who can laugh and sing and play without fear. When the Bible speaks of becoming like a little child to enter the kingdom of heaven, this is the model I use as a healthy “heart.”
And said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” -Matthew 18:3
We are broken-hearted people. We lead with our heads to prevent ourselves from becoming hurt further, hiding our hearts (our vulnerable self). The rule-making-head creates laws to keep our soft-self protected. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” While Proverbs 4:23 states, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”
Quieting the mind, removing it from the world’s influence for a time, and spending one day a week in the arms of the Healer allows the heart opportunity to return to life. Ask a child about their favorite part of school and they’ll likely say it is recess or music or maybe even lunch.
I once read a description of living with God as being like playing in His backyard. The adult looks at all the toys and asks, “What does God want me to do?” And the answer is…it doesn’t matter what you play…what matters is you are in God’s place.
Maybe culturally we’ve drifted so far from accepting rest and play as productive that we need a YouTube video to give us a starting point. Incentive from a book or a testimony is a good thing! So, I’ll offer you my insights that have come with practice.
- The only law I follow is that I “keep” a day set aside. I don’t care what day of the week it falls on. When people know you’re unavailable consistently, whatever that time slot holds, work, church, exercise, they learn to accept that. They’ll catch on to Sabbath too.
- Expect your ox to fall in a ditch sometimes. Yes, I said ox. This idiom refers to the Sabbath day that Jesus was accused of working (healing) on the Sabbath. Jesus suggested that there would be times when your plan is usurped by those unforeseen circumstances or emergencies…and that’s okay. Your surprises are not God’s surprises!
- Early on I found it helpful to get away from the house to keep our minds from returning to “work.” Jeff and I would take a book out to the lake, grateful for such a beautiful creation. It offered both peace and rest. As we continued to practice, we learned to be at home without chores nagging us.
- Turning off worldly noise is not the same as sitting in silence. Gathering with friends and family, particularly fellow believers, is a way to celebrate God’s love for family and unity. Being social and being on social media are NOT equal.
- Remember your inner child. What unique interests did God give you? Do you enjoy physical activities? Are you artistic? Musical? What is relaxing AND gives you energy?
- James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” Each of us have different ways of worshipping God and listening to His Holy Spirit. There’s a reason we get filled at church. Explore different methods of worship… perhaps new ways of prayer…giving…singing…studying.
BEING WITH GOD
A day dedicated to God is the point. Not that we go through specific motions. That’s a return to the law that Jesus freed us from. Sabbath practice can also be free from legalism because it’s not production based. It’s an opportunity for our broken hearts to be renewed over and over. Who doesn’t need that kind of healing?
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” -Psalm 51:10