People-Centered Vs. God-Centered Rest: Sabbath

How many times do you hear people say, “I’m tired”? How many times do you yourself say, “I’m tired”? As a society we are perpetually tired perhaps by over-committing ourselves, unrealistic expectations whether externally imposed or self-imposed, challenges providing for self & family during economic struggles, poor time management, and countless of other reasons and factors. When was the last time you felt truly refreshed? Renewed? Even if you make a commitment to rest, you may not feel rested.

 

Rest is like exercise- it takes time to build fitness and stamina to do it well. If the modus operandi is multi-tasking, caffeinated consciousnesses as Shane Claiborne calls it, and keeping a calendar with lots of mental notes, then trying to stop and rest is like trying to stop a train. It takes a freight train about 1 mile to come to a complete stop. Many times when starting out with rest, there may be a heightened sense of anxiety- I’m forgetting something or someone, I should be doing something else, etc. Make a list of these things as they come to mind & return to rest. Rest is more of an attitude than anything, but rest also requires saying no to other things for a certain period of time so you can say yes to wellness and rest.

 

Not everything that is enjoyable is restful. For example, certain movies increase heart rate & make us involved in fictional characters’ problems. This is hardly restful as many of us deal with other people’s problems for a living. If you feel that getting wrapped up in someone else’s problems, fictional or otherwise, distracts you from your own, this is not true rest but avoidance.

 

As Ecclesiastes 3 says there is a time for this and that; a season for this and that. There is a time for other people centered rest such as spending quality time with family or friends away from work and to-do list tasks. Jewish Shabbat includes some interpersonal connecting with people elements & this is good, but some people only practice people-centered rest. There is also a time for God-centered rest which is the most challenging and most neglected type of rest. Even God took time to stop and admire Creation, to rest. [Genesis 1:1-2:4]

 

What is God-centered rest & how is it practically possible? Set a specific, reasonable, and practical time. Thursday evenings from 5-8pm. Sunday afternoons from 1-6pm. Monday mornings from 9:30-11:30am. Saturday sunset to Sunday sunset. More important than length of time is consistency. Turn off music, television, silence your phone, step into a quiet and private space whether inside or outside. Exterior silence facilitates interior silence.

 

The probability of having an emergency only you can respond to via phone or email during a few hours or perhaps a full day is statistically slim. God-centered rest is a reminder that we are not the only ones who are able to respond to needs. If you are a minister, trust your staff to handle situations or wait to consult with you until you return from rest. If you are a student, trust that the last minute email from your professor or study group will be there after regular rest. Rest requires trust in other people and in God, which is counter-cultural from the [though helpful in moderation] independent do-it-yourself attitude of today. Trusting others and God means acknowledging that you yourself do not keep the world spinning. Life happened before you and will continue after you. Rest is a temporary timeout.

 

Don’t worry about making the most of this set aside time. Allow yourself to rest without a to-do list. You are on God’s time and schedule. Sit in silence & accept that falling asleep is possible & maybe probable! Slowly read a spiritual book only for the purpose of rest and reflection. This time is not about getting as far through the book as possible. In Sabbath rest, lack of ‘productivity’ is desired. Prayer journal. Admire the Creator by sitting outside or on a stroll- slow is key. Our bodies are made to rest about 1/3 of life. [8 hours sleeping per 24-hour period] Our spirits are made for rest, too.

 

Deep down, sometimes we avoid stillness, silence, rest. As I have heard from many nuns- it is a mistake to go to the convent to avoid the world or running from yourself because it is in the silence and prayer of the convent that they say they most struggle as they see themselves more clearly than before. As distractions are removed and we experience God through silence, rest, and contemplation, we recognize how weak we truly our and how powerful God really is. Rest puts us in our place with one another as we work together to gives others time and space to rest, and with God as we recognize Him as Creator who in wisdom created us for rest.

 

As Lauren Winner writes in Mudhouse Sabbath, Sabbath or God-centered rest, “Sabbath, shapes all the rhythms of calendar and time; the entire week points toward Shabbat” (p.8). What if time was marked and ordered by spiritual connection with God- rest, prayer, church?

 

Refresh must be more than a button on the internet browser. We need refreshment. I am reminded of Psalm 42:1- “As the deer pants for water, so my soul longs for you.” How is panting improved to regular breathing? Stopping to focus on consistent breathing. Exhaustion is improved by stopping to focus on spiritual breathing- resting in God’s company.

 

I write this as a tired person looking for rest. Looking for community. Looking for God. Looking for refreshment. Join me.

 

 

To Welcome the Sabbath

[from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals]

 

Lord of Creation,

Create in us a new rhythm of life

Composed of hours that sustain rather than stress,

Of days that deliver rather than destroy,

Of time that tickles rather than tackles.

 

Lord of Liberation,

By the rhythm of Your truth, set us free

From the bondage and baggage that break us,

From the Pharaohs and fellows who fail us,

From the plans and pursuits that prey upon us.

 

Lord of Resurrection,

May we be raised into the rhythm of Your new life,

Dead to deceitful calendars,

Dead to fleeting friend requests,

Dead to the empty peace of our accomplishments.

 

To our packed-full planners, we bid, “Peace!”

To our over-caffeinated consciences, we say, “Cease!”

To our suffocating selves, Lord, grant release.

 

Drowning in a seas of deadlines and death chimes,

We rest in You, our lifeline.

 

By Your ever-restful grace,

Allow us to enter Sabbath rest

As Your Sabbath rest enters into us.

 

In the name of our Creator,

Our Liberator,

Our Resurrection and Life,

We pray.

Amen.

 

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