It is the season of Lent, a time in which we intentionally pay attention to our journey of faith as we move towards Easter. Let me offer a suggestion.
“The Sabbath was created for you, you were not created for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27. Jesus reminds us that the one who made us also created for us a means by which we can become all that God intended for us. It is called Sabbath. Unfortunately, the church seems to have abandoned this gift many years ago.
When I speak of Sabbath, I am not necessarily speaking of a particular day, but of a practice of living every day. Learning to take Sabbath moments, times, and yes, maybe even a day, is important to the health of a Christian’s spiritual life. Another term that is used is learning to practice the presence of God.
Recently I heard a story about a man who had decided to dramatically simplify his life. In the process, he made a commitment to walk everywhere he went, and did so, eventually walking across the country. Along the way, he also made a commitment to stop talking for a while.
In sharing his experience, he made the following comment: “Not talking was very difficult at first, but as I stayed with the commitment, eventually all of the voices in my head quieted down, and for the first time, I could really listen.”
I am not suggesting that you start walking everywhere or that you stop talking, but I am pointing to the fact that until followers of Jesus make a conscious effort to practice Sabbath, we may not really be able to hear the voice of God through all of the noise that is in our heads.
How then do we begin to regain Sabbath, a practice that helps us turn loose of overwork and over consuming? Let me offer a few suggestions.
There must first be a commitment that Sabbath is a discipline we need. Ask God to begin to give you a hunger for Sabbath, for time in which you do nothing else but listen and watch creation, read scripture, pray, worship, relax, and renew.
Second, let me suggest some resources for you to pick up. The following books have been helpful to me as I am attempting to regain this important Christian discipline in my life: Sabbath- Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in our Busy Lives- Wayne Muller; The Sabbath- Abraham Joshua Heschel; The Spiritual Art of Creative Silence- Jeanie Miley. There are others, and I will be glad to share them with you if you desire.
There are also some daily, practical things we can begin to do. Light a candle or place some other object in your home or work space that is solely for the purpose to remind you of the presence of God with you. Take a five minute break a few times a day and simply observe your environment and ask the question, “What is God doing in this place right now? What is God trying to tell me?” Also during one of these times, simply repeat the Jesus prayer – “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” This is a long standing practice of Sabbath among the followers of Jesus. Attempt to plan a half day in your home in which you intentionally do no work, but maybe read scripture, talk with your spouse, listen to the wind.
I hope to be able to come back to this discipline with other suggestions from time to time. Maybe, if there is interest, we could begin a short-term study for small groups and learn other resources to help us regain the Sabbath. Let me know. Remember, the Sabbath was made for you. Do not overlook this gift!