What is Sabbath for? // Restoration

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If my private world is in order it will be because I have chosen to press Sabbath peace into the rush and routine of daily life in order to find the rest God prescribed for Himself and all of humanity.

– Gordon MacDonald

I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to get into the rhythm of the merry-go-round of life and operate on autopilot. I am just focussed on making it through the work week, then making it though the things that need to be done around the house on the weekends, I fall in a heap on the couch half way through Sunday afternoon and sit there like a blob, desperately trying to “relax” before Monday morning rolls around, and then when it does…I wake up tired and apathetic and just as worn out as I was on Friday afternoon after a week of work.

I have discovered over the years that if I don’t make a conscious decision to do anything differently, I continue on this cycle until I crash and burn.

Our society, and dare I say many of our churches, are focussed on “doing” and “achieving”. Unless you’re crazy busy, you’re not doing it right. We need to remember that our value does not come from what we achieve or what we acquire. Our value comes from who we are, from our position as adopted sons and daughters of God. I believe that we really need to guard against workaholism, because ultimately being a workaholic is potentially damaging both to your personal health and to your family relationships. The problem is that it is really hard to go against this culture, but I’m beginning to see that the benefits of being intentional about observing the Sabbath far outweigh the blank stares and outright sneers of those who do not see the need.

I believe that the Sabbath needs to be made up of a balanced combination of both leisure time and biblical/godly rest.

Leisure time and activities are like the lollies of life. You only need a little bit in order to remain healthy. Leisure time and doing fun things is great, and they give you a quick little pickup from time to time in terms of bringing serenity to your inner world…but it is really not enough to sustain you in the long run. It’s a quick hit of energy, like a chocolate bar, but like that chocolate bar, there’s a low after. Leisure time, while it’s nice to have, and definitely required; doesn’t really provide the long term, sustaining nourishment that our inner world requires.

We need godly rest as well as leisure time. God was the first one to have rested and you can read about that in Genesis at the end of the creation account, and again in Exodus 31:17 where Moses talks about God resting and being refreshed. The Israelites were commanded to keep the Sabbath day holy as part of the Ten Commandments (Ex 20) which were essentially a set of guidelines to teach them how to live in community again. They had just been set free from a life of slavery where their every waking moment was dictated by someone else — that was all they knew — and they needed some instruction. God was teaching them the best way to live; He wasn’t giving them a set of rules for the sake of it. It’s for that reason I believe that having a day set aside to focus is a legitimate biblical principle for us to observe as modern followers of Jesus. We have been set free from the slavery of sin and need to learn to live in community with other believers. For me, the parallel is obvious.

This rest lets us sort through all of the thousands of pieces of information that bombard us each week and weed out the things that aren’t aligned with the truths and principles that we live by. And the thing about humans is that if we are not intentional about doing this refocussing activity we are prone to drift away from God. Godly rest allows us to be tough and resilient if we have laser focus on our life’s purpose.

Our soul-deep tiredness can only be overcome by catching a fresh vision of the purpose that God has for our lives. If you have the space in your life where you can do that on a daily basis…I am deeply jealous! But for me, I need to intentionally stop the routines of my daily life and give special attention to this refocussing and reconnecting with God’s vision for my life. Taking a Sabbath day is how I do that.

So what does this look like on the ground for me? Before I go on I want to say that Sabbath activities will be different for everyone. For example, many church workers take a week day as their Sabbath, and for parents of very young children it may be an hour once a week.

As I mentioned in the first post, I’m in the development phase for this spiritual discipline, but at the moment my Sabbath day consists of:

  • worship — prayer, bible reading, singing and playing music, drawing, meditation etc.
  • connecting with other believers— whether that be at a physical church or an on line one or through another form of community gathering.
  • weekly review— closing all the open loops, refocussing on purpose and direction (see GTD for more information on this one).
  • journalling — examining what has happened in the week just gone and looking for God’s hand, pausing and asking myself questions about what my life means, working through any issues that need to be dealt with.
  • time with my family — Sabbath was instigated at the time of creation just as the first family was initiated at the time of creation…I’d like to think they are related…and even if they’re not, my family is my primary ministry and part of my purpose in life.
  • physical exercise — I need to renovate my temple, I see this as an act of worship too.
  • relaxation — being an introvert I need a good amount of alone time to restore balance.

For this one day of the week I put aside my regular routine (I have a highly regimented weekly routine in order to get everything done as a full-time worker and mother) and go with the flow of what God has for me. This disruption to my regular programming is like hitting the reset button, and even though it may look like there’s a lot on that list, they are all things that are designed to soothe my soul and refocus me for the week ahead. I’ll talk more about the preparation aspect of Sabbath in the next installment.

Sabbath is no longer a guilt-laden legal requirement. Nor is choosing to observe the Sabbath an excuse to live however you choose during the other six days…all of life is “christian activity” there can be no separation between spiritual and secular. Sabbath is a gift that God is offering. A gift of refreshing and restoration. He personally demonstrated this better way to do life, as any good leader does if He intends his people to follow. If it’s good enough for God, it’s good enough for me. Where He leads I will follow.

What are your thoughts. Do you observe a Sabbath day? How do you intentionally refocus on what God wants for you?

Michelle

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7 responses to “What is Sabbath for? // Restoration

  1. Hi Michelle,
    In the last month or so I started taking a Sabbath rest day. I’m still fine-tuning what that means so I’m glad you shared your thoughts. I realized that I was never getting a break and one of the podcast sermons I listened to clearly pointed out the commandment about the Sabbath. I felt so stupid for forgetting about it!
    I still struggle to get to church given my hubby’s work schedule, but I’m putting work and uni to the side on Sundays. It’s my long run day, listen to sermons day and have fun with my hubby day. I need to keep thinking about the Christian fellowship side of things.
    Thanks for being so open about your journey. You are inspiring me even if I’m tagging along quite a way behind you!
    Penny.

    • Hi Penny!
      First of all I want to say that you are not tagging along behind me, we are sharing an adventure! 🙂 If you are seeking to do what God has for you in your life, you are in the perfect place! You are right where God wants you. 🙂 Good on you for being open to his leading and listening to what he’s leading you to do.
      I have similar struggles in terms of juggling work schedules etc. If you’re interested in checking out online church campuses… http://www.lifechurch.tv/ are great or these guys will be online in a month or so http://northpointonline.tv/ and look like being excellent.
      Thanks for sharing!
      Michelle

  2. Yes! needed this right now. I’m tired of routine and need more spiritual discipline. great blog. catch on twitter.

    • Hi jackalopekid
      I am coming to understand that taking a rest day allows us to see the value of our routines…and be reminded of the purpose of those routines 🙂

      thanks for stoppin by!

  3. A well thought out post and I certainly can’t argue with it. From my point of view I have too much time on my hands now I am retired and feel somewhat restless not that I would want to go back into the work force.

    Some of the ideas you have for your Sabbath rest are definitely worth considering. Thanks for the post

    • Hi Bernie…what are you passionate about? What did you want to grow up to be when you were a child? Perhaps the answer to those questions may be a guide for this next phase of your life?

      Loved the pictures of your house that you put up of Facebook BTW! So cute!

  4. well said. good thoughts :] funny how such a nice thing like Rest is something we forget to do. I love what Adele Ahlberg Calhoun describes rest and examen, and sabbath and a few other related disciplines in her book Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices that transform us…you’ve touched on similar themes here. All that to say… well done.

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