The more I think and research the idea and concept of sabbath, the art of rest, how we need to get rhythms in our lives in order to be fully productive and properly rested human beings, the more I am beginning to see there is a bigger story at work here. I guess I should have realised this at the beginning, but God has been taking me on a journey and only now am I beginning to see where this is going and what it means.
You see, the art of rest and sabbath, and the rhythms of our lives, are inexorably linked to being a disciple.
Its that simple.
You may already have recognised this, but its taken me a few weeks researching this to realise just how close these are - in fact, they may well be two sides of the same coin. Because to live a life where we are fully rested, where we always have enough energy for life and where we have a good pattern at work in our lives, it means we need to be orientating our whole lives rightly.
Church itself can become an excuse not to rest. We think that we're doing something for the kingdom, something good and so therefore its allowed. And because its much harder to be silent and disconnect, then we go for the thing that will keep us busy, make us feel good and which actually comes more naturally to us.
I have found trying to create a space for silence and really listen to God is one of the most challenging things I have ever done. I find it very difficult at times to be patient in silence.
There is so much noise in the world around us, that we often don't realise how much we like it. Even if its background noise, noise we can ignore, we still feel safer and more comfortable if there is some kind of noise going on, something to stop us having to think, engage with ourselves, face up to reality, or remind us of what we're really feeling deep down inside.
Those are the things God really wants to deal with, and out of fear, impatience and busyness we just plain ignore them.
Not only this, but our bodies get used to this too. Our bodies get used to needing noise to feel comfortable, so even on a very subconscious level we are uncomfortable in silence.
But its something we need to do.
Its something we were designed to do - and designed to need.
There is a way of being human which Jesus came to show us, an original design for us, an original routine. The Bible emphasises this right from the beginning. There are two accounts of creation, and the first one is more of a symbolic one, one with deeper metaphorical and symbolic meaning, as opposed to the second which follows more practical and logical order - and in the culture in which it was written, order is important. The writer is saying that while the account of creation as it happened is important, but that the bigger story is more important. And the first story shows us there is a rhythm, a cadence, a routine, a pattern to life which God models - He creates, and rests. He works and rests. In fact He takes a whole day off at the end - and its so important He declares it Holy. In fact, the day of rest, the period of time set aside to recharge and reconnect - is the first thing to be declared Holy in the Bible.
Rest is that important to God.
He wants us to work, but He also wants us to fully rest. He wants us to set aside a day to disconnect, to recharge, to reconnect with Him and be reminded of what's all around us, to enjoy life, to celebrate, to feed our souls.
How often do we really do this?
I know I don't do this nearly often enough. I find it so hard to turn off my phone, not check my e-mails and not go on any social network site for a whole day. I think many of us do.
Have you ever tried it?
Do you think you could do it?
What questions does it immediately, instinctively raise when I suggest that?
'But if I do that I.....(add your own comment here).
But really, is it not possible to do that at all?
But it shouldn't be that hard, it really shouldn't.
We got along for centuries without these things, and ultimately we should be able to go a day without them. We might have to plan it, to tell people in advance so they know not to contact us that day, and ultimately to leave some way open to contact us in case of emergency, but it shouldn't be the mission that I know it could feel like for many.
Now one other thing, let me get this straight.
God does want us to work.
Sorry people, just because I said God wants us to rest doesn't mean us taking loads of days of work doing nothing! Seriously though, when talking about rest a lot it can lead us to think rest is all that matters, but that's not the case. God wants us to work, He designed us to work, to create, to bring new things into the world, to contribute to the world, to build His kingdom here.
But He doesn't want it to become our life. Just like He doesn't want rest to be our entire life.
Either end of that spectrum is bad, God wants us to get what we would call a 'work-life balance' in today's culture.
He wants us to use what He has given us to contribute to the world and build His kingdom here. But He also wants to rest, recharge, reconnect with Him, remember what's important and remember that the world doesn't depend on us. The ultimately, its all in His control not ours. Its almost an act of faith, and an act of great humility to take a sabbath, because we're recognising that the world can go on without us, that its God that sustains the world not us.
I have more to share with you on this topic and I'm excited by where this is going, and I hope to share something else on it with you this week.
I still have lots more study and research to do before I get anywhere near where I want to be, this is essentially a journey I'm on, and I'm still very much on the theory and the initial discovery. But it excites me, because God is clearly doing something with this and I am interested to see where this goes. I hope you will continue on this journey of discovery with me.
Next time, I'll be exploring something I touched on briefly in this piece. The link between rest/sabbath and creativity, what that looks like, where it comes from and how it impacts us.