Friday, April 8, 2016

Creating Rest

All week, we've been looking at some of the ideas surrounding God's institution of Sabbath, from my personal practice to the interpretation of the Pharisees to the good work of Jesus to the Levitical decree concerning the land. At this point, you may be thinking about what Sabbath might look like in your life, but you still might be wondering just how to make it possible. 

Is Sabbath realistic in our modern world?

It absolutely is. So I want to offer some guidelines for creating your own Sabbath practice. These are not hard and fast rules, but they are lessons learned along the way that I hope will help you to form this practice for yourself.

1. Start small.

You don't have to do a full-blown Sabbath right away. Pick one thing that probably gets too much of your attention, runs too much of your life, demands too much of you, and rest from that for a set period of time. For me, it was the Internet/computer. Several years ago when I started this practice, that was all I did - for one day a week, I did not use the Internet/computer. As I began to understand all that this simple act of rest contributed to my life, it became easier to add other things.

2. Pick a day/time that works for you.

The Sabbath doesn't have to be Sunday. (And actually, Sunday is the first day of the week; Saturday is the seventh.) It doesn't have to be Saturday, either, though. Your schedule may require you to make a Sabbath Tuesday or a Sabbath Friday. You may even have some type of rotating schedule that requires you to Sabbath on a different day each week. That's fine. The goal here is not to schedule your week, but to set aside time for your rest. I chose Sunday because Sunday works for me.

3. Sabbath is not a secret.

Don't by shy about telling others that this is your Sabbath. Don't be shy about asking them to respect the practice of rest that you have instituted in your life. If you don't share this with them, two things happen: they think you're rude or don't like them or whatever when you turn down their requests, and they never stop making requests of you because they don't know any better. This includes, by the way, your boss. I currently working as a teaching assistant in my seminary. At the beginning of the semester, I connect with whatever professor I am working for and plainly state my Sabbath practice, adding, "If my being unavailable on Sundays is a major problem, please let me know. I am willing to change my Sabbath practice, if necessary, but I am not willing to surrender it." Meaning, if a professor truly needed me to be present on a Sunday, he or she could request it of me, as long as they provide either enough notice for me to change my Sabbath practice and incorporate my rest or they offer an opportunity afterward for me to do the same. I also tell the students in whatever classes I am working in the same thing - I am unavailable on Sundays. But I am up by 5 on Monday and will get back with you as soon as I can. So far, both faculty and students have had the utmost respect for my Sabbath practice. (The same is not always true in the secular world, where I have been refused work for my Sabbath practice. But the truth is that I do not want to work for anyone who believes they have the right to work me seven days a week at their own discretion. See yesterday's post for more on that.) 

4. Permit your Sabbath space to grow.

Life changes; so should your Sabbath. What works for you in one season may not work for you in another. What you desperately seek rest from today may not be the same thing that you need to rest from five years from now. Maybe you expand your Sabbath practice; maybe you shrink it. Let your life speak into your Sabbath so that your Sabbath remains meaningful for your life.

5. Remember that Sabbath is about more than activity.

This is probably the easiest one to let slip away. We can get so attached to the idea that our Sabbath is about work - about what we do or don't do. But the Sabbath is so much more than that. When I Sabbath, I let everything within me come to a place of rest. I let my spirit settle, let my heart rest. This means that on the Sabbath, my attitude is different. I use this day to intentionally work on my spirit. To speak more softly. To be more deliberate with my words. To calm my spirit. To ground myself in the Lord. If Sabbath is only about the things we do or don't do, it's little more than a checklist. "Today, I did..... and I did not...." but it does not fundamentally challenge or change us. In order to change us, Sabbath must permeate our entire being. It must be something we do with the whole of ourselves, not just with the volitional part of us. And you know what? When you spend one day a week working on your spirit, you discover just how much your spirit, God's Spirit, is working in you the other six days. You create this kind of dialogue that doesn't just come one day a week; it invades your whole life. And you discover more of who God created you to be. All because for one day, you are only that. 

So there you have it. Those are, I think, the top five tips I have for creating Sabbath in your life. I encourage you to try it. It's hard at first; I won't lie. It's very difficult to get into the rhythm of rest. But once you do, it adds this tremendous new dimension of depth to your life. It is one of the most incredible things you can do for yourself. Because you do need to rest, don't you?

Don't we all?

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