Saturday, November 27, 2021

Reclaiming the Sabbath

A couple of Sundays ago, I enjoyed my first real Sabbath in quite a long time. If you know me, you know that I instituted a practice of Sabbath about ten years ago and have been faithfully committed to it...well, kind of. 

More about that later this week.

Sabbath seems like such an antiquated practice. How are we supposed to observe a time of rest in a world that runs around the clock? How can we set aside any time when the world doesn't want to give it to us? Most important, I think, we ask ourselves - what am I going to miss out on while I'm "resting," as though rest is some kind of selfish luxury. 

And that's really the biggest obstacle to our Sabbath - FOMO. Fear of missing out. Fear that something is going to happen that we'll wish we had taken part in and we're going to pass up that chance for the opportunity to do...nothing? Isn't that what Sabbath is? Isn't Sabbath doing...nothing? 

Sabbath is not doing nothing, though. Not in the passive sense. Sabbath is an active restraint. It is an intentional nothing. It is consistently choosing against the pressure to perform and to participate and to run ourselves down to empty. 

Sabbath comes out of this place of deep longing, this gnawing ache that realizes that nothing in this world can satisfy it...and so it goes out purposely in search of "nothing" of this world. It purposely disengages, intentionally rests because it understands that only "nothing" is going to make this burning in our souls better. Only "nothing" stands a chance of touching our most empty place. 

Sabbath hears the call of the heart and has to keep reminding itself that the urge that we feel to go out and satisfy our souls...will never lead us to real satisfaction. It has to keep reflecting on what's really happening and realize, all over again with every breath, that the human tendency to want to heal ourselves won't work here. It has to keep choosing to let that ache settle a little bit, to let it come to rest in real rest because literally nothing else will do. 

Sabbath understands that the only thing that can speak to our very human God Himself. 

That's what makes Sabbath so hard. It keeps feeling like we ought to be doing something - at the very least, listening to ourselves and doing whatever it is that feels right to us. But the irony of Sabbath is that doing anything at all, once we're doing it, feels wrong. It feels empty. It feels hollow. It feels the full weight of how human an attempt it is to placate ourselves, to answer our gnawing ache and our hunger for something more. The more we try to do Sabbath, the more we realize that we can't. 

And it is then that we understand that Sabbath does require us to do something; it requires us to do nothing. It isn't passive. It isn't lazy. It isn't some kind of selfish luxury. It is diligent, disciplined engagement with nothing in order to connect the depths of our souls to everything. That is, to Him Who is everything. All of a sudden, our greatest fear is no longer what we might be missing, but that we might be missing this. That we might be missing Sabbath. That we might let it make us so uncomfortable that we trade it in for lesser things. 

That's the real bummer. 

We're going to talk about Sabbath for a few days, and I'm going to make a few confessions. Because the traps that I have found myself in - and the longings of my own soul - are the same traps and longings that are so common to all of us. This week, we are reclaiming the Sabbath. 

Starting with me. 

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