Observing the Sabbath – Part One
Sabbath is the Hebrew word meaning “day of rest,” something modern Judeo-Christians do not typically observe. It’s a day set aside to honor the God of creation and Savior from slavery, and yet our current culture can’t seem to find the time. We live in a society of MORE. This summer I have found the ultimate pleasure in celebrating this weekly Holy day, finding it to be a refreshing practice in holistic wellness. Why have I waited so long to obey this command? Why hasn’t this spiritual discipline been taught with as much fervor as bible reading, fasting or prayer? I do not know, but let me tell you, a door has opened into a whole new realm! It turns out, God knows what is best for us, and so He created His law of observing the Sabbath.
Over the past decade, I’ve felt the draw toward this Old Testament decree of keeping the Sabbath holy. Despite reading scripture and doing devotions or bible studies that touch on rhythms of rest, I didn’t understand how this practice of stopping would make a difference in my life. I know no one who observes Sabbath, and have never heard a single sermon on its validity to today, so how could I comprehend the magnitude of its impact? How could I know this exercise had powers to heal?
INSPIRED BY A BOOK
In May of this year, I was handed an orange bound book entitled The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, written by John Mark Comer. I’d been talking to a friend about our newly acquired Hawaiian home, and the intent Jeff and I had in sharing with others a much-needed respite, and she loaned me this book. In reading this writing, it smacked me upside the head with the insights into the benefits of observing the Sabbath! The author, a pastor in Portland, Oregon (so close to home!), shared his testimony of being a work-a-holic in the field of Christian ministry…in a time when mega churches set the bar on success. Big as best. He was running long and hard in his life and was burning out. So, he pulled back and decided to go for less. And in that plan, he also began treating the seventh day differently. He’d rest.
CHASING THE WORLD
In my own history, in my college days I was living with my parents and had few responsibilities. I’d take naps on the weekend, spend time with family, listen to music or watch old movies. School was full time, work part time, and I was liable for little else. As time passed, I acquired a car, got a job, moved out, got married, bought a house, had kids, bought a bigger house, a second house, pets…all the while the Jones’s kept upping the bar….
How do you stop when the kids are jumping on the couch, the cupboard is nearly bare, and the car needs an oil change? The whisper day of rest was present back then, but it was hard to hear over the clock’s tick tock – no time!
DISCIPLINED TO STOP
Fast forward over ten years and this neon cover flashed its message – STOP! The unique angle Pastor Comer’s book brings is a Jesus perspective. Live the habits Jesus lived. Be a disciple by doing his disciplines. Comer quotes philosopher and theologian Dallas Willard:
“The disciplines are activities of mind and body purposefully undertaken, to bring our personality and total being into effective cooperation with the divine order. They enable us more and more to live in a power that is, strictly speaking, beyond us, deriving from the spiritual realm itself.” -Dallas Willard
I want my total being to be in effective cooperation with the divine order! And obedience to God’s command is part of that cooperation.
So, this ruthless and hurry-less book inspired me to try this Sabbath thing out. What was the worst that could happen but that I might have to do laundry on Monday? I figured, I’d give it a go and see what would happen. This is my spin on observing the sabbath…a science project of testing and taking notes. Observing.
INSPIRED BY GOD’S SABBATH
Of course, I would not be me (crazy lady getting all worked up!) if I didn’t also dig into the Bible and read other books by respected Theologians. As if the practice was not sufficient! But it turns out the scriptures have some interesting details on Sabbath.
I observed the very first Sabbath recorded in Genesis. Here I found that man, being created on day six, actually began life with God on this rest-filled seventh day! So, what appears to us as the last day…was man’s starting place. God stopped His work week to spend time with man, and not the other way around.
Does that reframe your thinking?
What a beautiful picture of Father and child. My husband also took time off from work when our kids were born, just to be with them and bond with them. Evenings and weekends were special when his time was set aside for family. In our house, Jeff would come home at the end of the day announcing, “Daddy’s home!” A round of hugs and kisses were exchanged and a sense of security and rest settled over us as we nestled together.
Was God setting a marker into humanity’s DNA that togetherness increases contentedness? There’s no scientific proof of such a link, but I know not a soul who doesn’t feel more at peace and more at rest when they feel God is with them. I’ve always been of the belief that God was building systems while creating the universe. Laws of physics, mathematics and…well…commandments like keeping the seventh day holy.
CENTERING ON SABBATH
On this singular point of Sabbath being a starting point or foundation for going forward, what if we built our week around it rather than work? How would your life look if every day was a prep for the day of rest?
My imagination travels to Christmas. Here, culturally, we all cram in a little extra each day…shopping, baking, festive decorations, singing…all in excited anticipation of a God and family centered day. While we are accomplishing more, still moods are brightened, generosity abounds, and we greet one another in a joyous spirit. Why? Because we are centered on something holy. Even non-believers find this time a treasure.
When a holiday comes once a week, it doesn’t become less special, it becomes habitual. The practice of bright mood, the exercise of generosity, the routine of joy flows into the other days of the week.
It becomes fruitful and multiplies.
So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all His work that He had done in creation. -Genesis 2:3
Life can become work. But when resting with God is the center of your days, life becomes easier.
A DARE TO REST
Observing the Sabbath is a weekly opportunity to give undivided attention to the One who established the systems we live by and who blesses us with every spiritual blessing (Eph 1:3). Going against any law has its consequences, right? Ever attempt to defy gravity? Following the pattern set by God tends to result in good things. That’s His promise.
There is a fire hose of information and blessings and delight on this path, I cannot squeeze it in one post! I’d like to continue this path of discovery…and with you if you’re interested. So, stay tuned to Observing the Sabbath posts. Better yet, begin an observance of Sabbath on your own and then expect the unimaginable!
8 thoughts on “Observing the Sabbath – Part One”
I found myself filled with excitement as I read this.
I am waiting for part 2 with baited breath.
Sharon, this fits so well after your last post on presence because isn’t that what the Sabbath is; setting aside time for enjoying God’s presence? And it is not at all about doing. It is about being. What a comfortable and restful place to be.
My daughter has quietly honored the Sabbath for several years. She does not work, do homework, or shop on Sundays. Even though she is running her own business, getting her Master’s degree, and shepherding her kids in college, still, she makes a day of rest a necessity. And it makes her so much more peaceful & productive on the other 6 days. Good thoughts here! It is about being, not doing.
Thank you Sharon. This is certainly good food for thought and inspiration.
Sharon this is a beautiful thing. As Liz and I have begun this journey a few months ago it has been life changing. We are still figuring this “thing” out. I guess it is like the word of God..”Living” But each Saturday has become a new and enlightening journey. We look forward with anticipation of Friday night the beginning of our Sabbath time.
Isn’t it nice that all we have to do is practice? Let’s keep at it!
Love this! 💕