A big part of my journey to recalibrate my life is praying about what I need help with. So recently I have been praying that the Lord will help me unwrap the gift of rest in my life. I also have been praying that my thoughts will be controlled with the words of Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.” I desire for my heart to be filled with peace rather than anxiety and overwhelm. And I want that peace to overflow into my life. Sabbath is about finding rest and peace in knowing the Sovereignty of the Lord. How beautifully these prayers fit in with my theme of Sabbath.
This month my Recalibrate Life Read is Keeping the Sabbath Wholly by Marva J. Dawn. She has divided her book into four themes of Sabbath. The themes are Ceasing, Resting, Embracing and Feasting. So I am approaching this month’s blog posts in a little different manner. Rather than sharing on topics and then sharing a response to the book, I am going to use each of the weeks in April to discuss one of these themes. So this week we will begin with the theme of ceasing.
Dawn explains that “the name Sabbath comes originally from the Hebrew verb ‘Shabbat’ which means primarily ‘to cease or desist’.” Sabbath gives us freedom as we choose to cease from some things to be present and choose ways to honor the Lord.
Ceasing from work is the first area discussed in this theme. This made me think back to a few years ago when my husband and I had two huge vegetable gardens. Sunday afternoons we would often be out there weeding and watering for anywhere from two to four hours. It was around this time that Sabbath rest began to interest to me. And at first I really struggled with going out to the garden. wasn’t that work? And isn’t it wrong to work on the Sabbath? Well, to some gardening may be work, but I found that digging in the dirt removing weeds, and standing in the rows, feeling the sun on my face, as I watered was actually relaxing. It was a refreshing time that I would spend in giving praise to the Lord or going through the alphabet praying for people. Or other times I would just spend the time talking with the Lord about whatever occupied my mind. People have differing views on what ceasing from work is to mean for us. I think it is about the attitude of the heart. There in the garden I was fully present with the Lord as I completed these tasks that actually relaxed me. I wasn’t striving.
Dawn discusses the importance of ceasing from productivity and accomplishment. She explains that when we’re not under the compulsion to be productive, we have time to really be present with others, and then get to know more of who they are. When we are so busy trying to accomplish things we lose sight of relationship and are just fixed on the goal. Ceasing from productivity on the Sabbath gives us opportunity to be with those we love and enjoy their company. You can enjoy slow-porch-conversations over lemonade, or a good movie as you munch popcorn or sip hot cocoa. It’s about being together. Recognizing the gifts the Lord has given you in those He has placed in your life.
I am enjoying being less productive as I choose to not cook a big dinner on Sundays. Instead, when I plan out my meals for the week, I make sure that I have something simple I can heat up on that day that way I am not spending the day in the kitchen. My husband and I often decide to spend part of the afternoon taking a nap or enjoying movie together. The quietness of the afternoon is refreshing and enjoyable.
Another area that Dawn says to cease from is the area of anxiety, worry and tension. Having too much to do is a huge factor in the level of stress and anxiety we experience. Dawn explains that she gets her house ready for “Queen Sabbath,” as she calls it, by putting away projects the night before. She removes any worry from her mind by keeping a running list of concerns and she sets these aside. She states, “The sabbath is not a running away from problems but the opportunity to receive grace to face them.” We create space to know God is in control, and to be aware of His presence. Setting our minds on things above gives us a new perspective.
Dawn suggests that we practice thanksgiving as a way to cease worrying. Sabbath is about remembering who God is and what He has done for us. When we are aware of those things we can cease to be God and naturally are led to give thanks.
I don’t think that many times we are even aware of how often we try to be God in our own lives. Or maybe that is just me. Just the other day I was praying for the Lord to be at work in a situation where we needed to hear from someone in order to move forward with a decision regarding an important project. Not hearing from this person was keeping me from being able to plan my week out, so I gave this dilemma to the Lord. But only a few moments later I found myself trying to figure it all out. I even suggested to my husband that I text the guy to see if he could give me a time line. My husband responded negatively to my suggestion saying that the man would call when he was ready. I felt frustrated and then remembered I had just given it to the Lord. There I was trying to control and manipulate things, not letting God be God. Old habits die hard.
Dawn says “…God will provide for his people, they don’t have to struggle to work things out for themselves.” Obviously, learning not to strive or figure it all out is a lesson I am still learning.
The last three areas of ceasing that Dawn discusses are that of ceasing from “possessiveness“, “enculturation” and from “humdrum and meaninglessness.”
The idea of possessiveness is related to stewardship. Stewardship reminds us of the importance of using the gifts the Lord has given us for service to Him. In her own life, Dawn chooses to make Sabbath a day to give things away–gifting others. She enjoys having dinner parties “especially for those who aren’t able to invite [her] back.” She refrains from shopping or anything that requires buying or selling on the Sabbath. So this means planning ahead to have the necessary food for dinner preparation. Sharing a meal with others is a great way to share God’s love and His gifts to us.
The point of ceasing from enculturation that stood out to me most in this book is that of setting “the Christian community apart as an alternative society to the surrounding culture.” When we choose to cease from things that are typical to our culture it causes people to stop and look, and maybe to ask why? How can we be holy and set apart, honoring the Lord on Sabbath? This is something we do not do to draw attention to ourselves but to draw attention the Lord’s impact on our lives.
Finally, Dawn explains that life can become “humdrum” in the rat-race of life. Every day begins to be the same. It is when we choose to honor the Sabbath that we realize we have something very special to look forward to. In time, we come to understand that in keeping the Sabbath that “all days derive their meaning from the Sabbath.” We recognize God as the Giver of all gifts and the One and Only Sovereign God over our lives.
These chapters on ceasing gave me much to think about. I am slowly finding my own special rhythm to six days of busyness and work, and one day of rest. I am making choices regarding what I need to cease from and how I must plan for that in my other six days. Planning for Sabbath is another way that helps you remember God. You choose deliberately and intentionally to think of ways to honor God, as well as ways to love others.
Next week our theme in this series on Sabbath will be Resting. Resting is something I am learning about for all of life. But “to rest” is actually the second meaning of the Hebrew verb “Shabbat.” We will be looking at a variety of aspects of rest which Dawn highlights in the second section of her book. I hope you will join me as we together learn more about keeping the Sabbath.
*Featured photo taken by Stephanie Crist found on Unsplash.