Discovering Sabbath

It began last spring. I was handed a paper that gave some questions to ask yourself about burnout. Oh dear, I have too many of those to admit out loud. I set it aside for another day, there was no time after all to entertain reality of burnout. I was putting my hope in our summer in Colorado to bring refreshment and restoration. Unfortunately it did the exact opposite. I left feeling more exhausted and burnt out than I had in years. I had learned a few things though in my Old Testament class about rest and how God valued it and it was very valued by His people to rest after a season and celebrate. Rest and celebrate. I was feeling certain He was bringing this up and making me very aware of our lack of doing this for a reason.

We drove away from our summer and it was hard to ignore the warning signs of burnout any longer. We began the conversation of what to do. A short vacation helped and we headed back into the swing of ministry. But the nagging need of real rest would not be quiet. It was shouting at me and God continued to bring me messages of the need for rest through sermons, books, and blog posts. It’s as if many people are finally being awakened to the danger of “being busy” and our lack of taking real Sabbath rest. I don’t even know if I really understand what that means.

We’ve been in ministry for 13 years now and we’ve never taken a sabbatical. I don’t ever want to be so entitled that I demand things but it’s fair to say that it was well overdo and not the norm around us. We put a sabbatical on the calendar for part of March and April and it felt almost rebellious, delinquent and lazy to do so but God kept whispering to heed to his warning to rest and not the worlds demands.

We’re 10 days into our sabbatical. I’ve had more time in the Word, reading great books, and just be-ing than I have in what seems like the last 5 years combined. We went to a Faith and Culture Writers conference and left inspired to be courageous, draw near to God and write more (even if I don’t consider myself a “real” writer). I just spent 2 nights at the beach on a personal spiritual retreat. I haven’t had that much alone time in 8 years and it was the most refreshing 2 days to my soul I’ve had in well, probably 8 years. The beauty and sunshine helped too.  It was like a kiss from God to be there.

CannonBeach panorama sunrise

Upon returning I’ve already had a sleepless night with a sick child. The full nights sleep was great while it lasted but I’m trying to hold onto the things that God is teaching me in the meantime, that rest in the Lord is more than sleep, although it does include that. Here are some of the great things I’ve read and I’m pondering so far about rest, sabbath and sabbaticals:

Rest is our hearts true home. If we deny ourselves rest, we deny home. God is continually wooing us to come closer to Him and that’s rest. -Deidra Riggs

In Scripture God is very vague about what to do in keeping the sabbath. There is only repetition in the general guidelines: rest, cease from work, celebrate, remember, observe, deny yourself, delight yourself.

Sabbath keeping is more an art, not a science.

The law of sabbath isn’t legalistic. It is a command given to save us from ourselves. If anything the sabbath command breaks us out of the prison of our own selfishness, it undoes our legalistic bent to go our own way.   -Mark Buchanan The Rest of God

Three Questions to ask on the Sabbath:

1. Where am I going my own way right now?

2. What one area of my life is more self-pleasing than God-pleasing?

3. What idle words need to be reined in from running rampant in my mind or spilling from my lips? (This is when instead of parking my mind on truth, I let it sit idle in perception. For ex. My husband expects me to do this, this and this to be a good wife when in fact he’s never said those things. I just perceive it to be true.)

The Sabbath isn’t just a time to be observed, it’s a time to be preserved. The observer remembers to rest. The preserver rests to remember. Remember, it’s all about God. The more we intentionally practice Sabbath, the more the Sabbath rhythm will become natural to us. A Sabbath lets our soul breathe.  -Lysa Terkheurst Unglued

I’m convinced more than ever that to be healthy and effective I have to know how to observe the Sabbath, and it’s more than taking a sabbath but having a sabbath heart if that makes any sense. Taking a Sabbatical is part of that process for us right now. I’m trying to be intentional with this time so that I’m not being idle and being challenged. At the same time I’m allowing myself to sit and just be, do things that bring me joy and enjoy the presence of God while I’m doing it. Here’s one last quote that I loved:

Maybe that’s what God requires most from us: our attention. Indeed, this is the essence of a Sabbath heart: paying attention. It is being fully present, wholly awake, in each moment. It is the trained ability to inhabit our own existence without remainder, so that even the simplest things–the in and out of our own breathing, the coolness of tiles on our bare feet, the way wind sculpts clouds into crocodiles and polar bears–gain the force of discovery and revelation. True attentiveness burns away the layers of indifference and ennui and distractions–all those attitudes that blend our days into a monochrome sameness–and reveals what’s hidden beneath: the staggering surprise and infinite variety of eery last little thing. –Mark Buchanan

What about you? Do you rest well? What are some ways you observe the Sabbath? Is it something you weave into the routine of life?

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