Enjoying God: Deep Sabbath

August 24, 2010 — Leave a comment

[#3 in “How to enjoy God”]

Last week with Jack away in Nigeria, I decided take a private Sabbath day. My normal Sundays are usually relaxing enough, but it’s not the same as spending a whole day alone to rest and enjoy God. A Rich Mullins song came to mind, titled Alrightokuhhuhamen, about God stepping back after creating the world.

Well the Lord said ‘let there be’ and there was
On the earth below and in the sky above
Well then He knocked off work ’cause it was Friday night
Come Saturday morning everything was just alright
Sure enough
Alright-ok-uhhuh-amen

To take a whole day off we have to have confidence that life is alright, that things are good, that the world is not going to fall apart if we don’t clean the house, answer the phone, respond to a text message, or check Facebook. It’s an affirmation of ‘I’ve done enough for now, and I can take a rest.’

However because “remember the sabbath day and keep it set apart” is one of the ten commandments, sometimes I start to view taking time off as an item to be checked off the master list of life. Or I can slip into thinking I’m doing God a favor by obeying this command. It can feel like a big sacrifice to give up productive time and sit at Jesus’ feet like Mary did, like I’m wasting valuable time that could be spent doing something else.

This year, a group of Jewish artists [their website slogan: “slowing down lives since 2010”] came up with a set of principles to encourage people to reclaim the sabbath:**

1. Avoid technology
2. Connect with loved ones
3. Nurture your health
4. Get outside
5. Avoid commerce
6. Light candles
7. Drink wine
8. Eat Bread
9. Find silence
10. Give back

It was a helpful framework to approach the day. For me, avoiding technology meant not checking email or using the internet to read news and blogs or look something up, or just surf around. [I could have added ‘don’t check Facebook’ but since I only do that about once a month, I figured that would be cheating.] I was amazed how being off the grid changed the tone of the day. It’s become a reflexive, thoughtless habit for me to click the ‘get mail’ button, or to look up a simple fact and emerge from the internet swamp two hours later. [Last March, the Sabbath Manifesto people also sponsored a National Day of Unplugging** but since it was national and not international, I was off the hook…]

I wasn’t legalistic about computer use [read: “there’s no way I could really stay off the computer for an entire day”]. I used the internet to webcam with family and to talk with Jack via Skype [see #2]. And what is more refreshing than watching the world through a one, two or three-year old’s eyes?

I went to the gym [#3] but later than usual, so it felt like I was on vacation. Getting outside meant reading on the terrace with a view of our beautiful little green garden.

It was too hot to light candles. But I did make some special food and have a glass of cool rosé. I usually don’t enjoy food preparation but since I wasn’t rushed, I was able to have a more sacramental attitude towards the task. It also helped to listen to worship music as I chopped vegetables to roast in the oven [yum!].

The Sabbath manifesto guidelines don’t mention any spiritual activities. But a few years back, I heard a great sermon on the sabbath [thanks, Dave H.]. He made the point that the Sabbath is not just a time for leisure, but a time for refreshment and renewal. For me, one way I get refreshed is spending time meditating on God’s love and mercy and grace for me, and His power to change me and help me. So in the afternoon, I spent some leisurely, refreshing time doing that. But that’s a subject for another post.

It wasn’t an earthshaking day. It was quiet, peaceful, relaxed. I took a bath. I read. I contemplated. By the time I went to bed, I did feel very refreshed. The next day, I had more mental energy to attack some unpleasant tasks. I don’t know how often I can ‘afford’ to take a whole day like that, but I know I want and need to do a deep sabbath more regularly, maybe once a month.

Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don’t do any work—not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town. For in six days God made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them; He rested on the seventh day. Therefore God blessed the Sabbath day; He set it apart as a holy day.
Exodus 20:8-11

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30 [The Message]

Links
The Sabbath Manifesto
[don’t miss the cellphone sleeping bag in the sidebar]
The Unplugged Challenge
Joel Stein’s account of going off the grid for a day

A day of grace

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