Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Old Testament Overtime: Sabbath

The Old Testament inspires me.  And quite often, I find it beautiful dischordant with life in the 21st Century.  With OT OT (Old Testament Overtime), I'd like to explore some of those contrasts as they strike me.  Today:


The day of rest.  The seventh day.  On the seventh day, God rested; He commanded His people to do the same.  For one day, stop working.  Stop creating.  Stop toiling.  Trust.  Honor.  Worship.  Rest.

I'm amused by a God who, so many thousands of years ago, knew that today, I needed to be told to rest.  And I know there are a lot of people who overlook the Sabbath command these days.  In the 21st Century, it's not practical to take a day off.  Not only is it not practical, it's not "kosher," as we'd like to say.  What kind of bag of lazy bones takes a day off - even a Sunday?  And what in the world would you do with a day off if you didn't use it to catch up on things you'd been putting off?

We don't know any more how to be still.  How to rest.  Part of that, sadly, is directly related to our inability to trust and to honor, with an (un)healthy dose of inflated self-importance thrown in.  There are people among us - and I know because for the longest time, I was one of them - who believe that if they take a day off, the world will stop turning.

Let me let you in on a little secret: if God set the world in motion and trusted His creation enough to take a day off, it's certainly gonna be just fine without you and me for a little Sabbath rest.

I'm not saying that what you and I do here is not important.  It's just not deathly important, and that's where we're pushing ourselves when we refuse to take a little time off.  And no, time off doesn't mean you switch to an alternate to-do list.  It means you stop.  Trust - the world to be ok without you and  what you've invested to not need your constant supervision.  Honor - the inherent wisdom in creation around you to take care of itself.  Worship - the One who created Creation and imparted wisdom.  And rest.

Sabbath is something I practice, though I'll admit it looks different today than it would have four thousand years ago.  Nights and Sundays are set-aside.  At night, I power-down.  I turn off my computer, disconnect.  There's not a residual hum from a hibernating PC to tempt me or test me; my devices are off.  When I wake up Sunday mornings, I don't even turn it back on.  I spend my mornings reading my Bible and whatever other book I'm working my way through on a given week, enjoying breakfast with the sun peeking in my window, and preparing for church.  After church, I do whatever Sunday-things are on the schedule (there's no schedule; it's an expression) - small group, shopping trip, football....  Most definitely football.  And I usually cook a large meal on Sundays.

It's one of the ways I've set aside time to let the world run without me.  To let my Twitter log and my Facebook feed run on and not worry about missing out on something.  To not be tied to email or blog reports or book requests or content reviews.  To not have one window running job searches (for one of those "real" jobs I'm perpetually looking for) and another window chatting with a friend and still a third window popping up this or that that would like to think it needs my attention...all while forgetting to look out the real window just behind my desk.  Sabbath is the day I remind myself that this world turns without me...and remind myself that I turn on more than this world.

E-Sabbath is something I have to be deliberate about.  Everyone knows they won't be able to reach me by email or social media or chat on Sundays.  They know if they need to reach me for some reason, they'll have to call or stop by.  (And I'm not one of those who says you have to call first; stop on by.)  But it's important for people to know what's going on and how to still reach me because 1) you don't want people to worry (and if you suddenly go a whole day in digital silence, people will worry and you'll log back in on Monday to a flood of concern over something so silly as not posting a status!) but more importantly...that's not what Sabbath is about.

Sabbath is not about cutting yourself off from the world; it's about cutting yourself off from the world you likely forget can't run without you.  It's not about removing yourself from everything around you; it's about pouring yourself into it.  It's about reconnecting with the beauty and wisdom and incredibleness that's so easy to find yourself unplugged from.  It's about finding...and remembering...the very things that God honored in His Sabbath, content to sit and simply enjoy the world He'd created - the world that's trustworthy, honorable, wise, beautiful, and wonderfully created.  A world created to captivate you but not to hold you captive.  A world in which you are invited - commanded, even - to rest.

Is Sabbath a time to not do anything?  Is a day of legalistic laziness without lifting a finger in anything that looks like work?  No.  It never was.  It's always been simply a time to not do everything.  To be more deliberate about life, more disciplined, more focused.  

I'm a lot like my Lord, and even on Sundays, I love hard and that looks like work.  It looks like it couldn't be Sabbath, but it absolutely is.  I root hard for my beloved Colts...and grumble under my breath at a fumble (and root just as hard against the wicked Patriots) and that looks like work, too.  Or at least, it looks like less.  It looks like it couldn't be Sabbath, but it absolutely is.  I'll slave over an aromatic dinner on a hot stove for an hour or two, simmering and sauteing and seasoning (and sampling), and this also looks like work.  It looks like it couldn't be Sabbath, but it absolutely is.  And I do my fair share of resting, too.

My Sabbath, a lot like Jesus's, looks a lot like work, but it is meticulously, deliberately, obstinately Sabbath.  It is not the legalistic rule-keeping of an Old Testament seventh-day, but it is purely and simply this: taking myself away from the "work" I get trapped into thinking is so important that I do and throwing myself fully into the work of HIS hands.  Then letting that be whatever that is...any given Sunday.

What would you do if you let yourself rest and discovered that the world was still turning?  How could you incorporate Sabbath practices into your life?  What would your day of rest look like?  

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