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Sabbath means “Day of rest”.
We are not people of the Sabbath. We are people of activity, business, distractions and short attentions spans. Without rest, without solitude or silence we fritter away our time on meaningless activities. Maybe that’s what Switchfoot is singing about when they say, “We were meant to live for so much more.” Bob Benson said “The recognitions that ones life is to be lived from the inside out is a milepost on the spiritual journey.” Living inside out… turning inward… resting, listening to those inner voices and the inner Voice… that’s a discipline that many simply don’t pursue intensely enough.
Let me give some benefits to being a person who can routinely be quiet and rest:
Clarity. We really can’t get away from all the distractions and voices in our mind. We can suppress them and try to keep our self occupied but sooner or later we need to deal with them. So we might as well get into the habit now of sorting them out. Hang on to the constructive thoughts but ‘take captive’ everything else. (that reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw a couple of years ago which said, “Don’t Believe Everything You Think.” I liked it so much so I actually named a 4 week sermon series after it. So, the truth is out: My best stuff comes from bumper stickers. As if you didn’t know that already.) When we learn to slow down like murky water settling in the river our inner lives become clearer.
Patience. This whole process is not easy which is why when we have any ‘down time’ we usually flip on the TV or the computer or occupy our self with something. It keeps us distracted. (Ironically after forming what I call the habit of self-distraction we begin to complain that God doesn’t speak to us. Let me be frank: Why should he? Why should the God of the Universe have to compete with “Desperate Housewives”… or Google… or the Diamondbacks… or soccer practice… or whatever?) After a while we realize that God speaks and acts and moves according to His timetable and not ours. Inevitably this leads us to the conclusion that our only general response is to rid ourselves of the habit of self-distraction and learn to wait on Him.
Living in contradiction. (Now that might not seem like something God has called us to do. What about the peace, what about the no-anxiety? Yeah, yeah, talk more about that.) Let me explain. The definition of peace is not a life without contradiction or conflict. Rather, it’s the calm right smack in the middle of contradiction. Instead of spending time running away from conflict or contradiction… embrace it and bring Jesus right into the middle of it. That’s the only way we’ll survive and thrive. We want neat and orderly. We long for black and white. We desire everything to be clarified but God never promised those things. He does promise peace in the midst of it though.
Out of control. We usually use that phrase in a negative way. It can actually be a very positive thing to learn that I am not in control. Henri Nouwen said, “Our life is not a possession to defend but a gift to give.” I like that. What do we do with possessions? We possess them. We get possessive. We are possessed by them! (Quick someone give us a truth-slap!) I own very little if anything and it’s really not ‘up to me’ to ‘fix’ it. Though I try to control and stay busy I can’t. The truth is busyness and activity is often a byproduct of a misguided sense of importance… as if the world must rely upon me… (read with big booming voice like Plankton’s on Sponge Bob.) “I am the savior!” “I am superman!” “Yeaahhh!” Nope.
Flexibility. The scriptures talk of godly people being pliable, flexible, moldable… like the clay in the potter’s hands. When we fail to slow down we lose the ability to be flexible. This is a problem. Think about it - there’s only one thing that can happen to a inflexible person: SNAP! Please listen, in particular if you are a young adult either single or newly married with no children yet… you want to learn what it means to bend and not break. I know many young adults who in this stage of life assume that this is the time to increase the RPM’s and be as productive as possible. So, they become more rigid and driven. Their line of reasoning goes that when the children come then they’ll slow down. If this is you here’s the problem: There is no guarantee that you will know how to slow down. It takes a disciplined person to learn this, remember? Do you think that all of sudden you’re going to become disciplined once you become married and/or have children? When you’ve conditioned yourself for 3 or 5 or 8 years to go, go, go do you think you will instantly be able to pause and spend time with your family? Probably not. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’ll be more productive now in order to have more time then. Build into relationships now. Be less driven or rigid and more flexible now. Learn this now and when the kids do come along you wont have to waste the first five years (or God forbid longer) of their lives to learn how.
Clarity, Patience, Being able to live in contradiction, Being out of control and Flexibility… those are five benefits that come to the person, the church, the people who learn to routinely set aside Sabbaths. There are many more. But right now I’ve got to enjoy a little Sabbath.
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