Sabbath: Choosing to Rest

This month’s blog post topic’s center around Sabbath–keeping. Last week we started off by looking at how we can choose to cease on the Sabbath. You can find that here: Sabbath: Choosing to Cease. This week we’re looking at the various aspects of choosing to rest as discussed in Keeping the Sabbath Wholly by Marva J. Dawn.

Dawn discusses spiritual rest, emotional rest, intellectual rest, and social rest in this particular section of her book. I honestly never considered rest in so many different ways prior to reading these chapters.

Dawn begins by sharing about spiritual rest which seems foundational to the others. She says, “When we cease striving to be God we learn a whole new kind of contentment, the delight of the presence of God in our present circumstances. When we give up our silly rebellion against God’s purposes, we discover that he provides the security for which we were searching.”

This takes me right back to: “abandoning control” to God, ceasing to strive and learning to trust Him with whatever may happen. I share more about abandoning control in this post, Relinquishing Control and Finding Peace. Giving up “our silly rebellion against God’s purposes” is key, rest and rebellion cannot co-exist. His purposes are so much bigger than what we can even wrap our brains around. Yet, this is probably my biggest area of struggle when I consider choosing to find rest.

Biblical Sabbath is all about accepting the Sovereignty of God. We find the bedrock for our trust in knowing that He has it all under control and can take care of everything. I totally get that, but knowing His love seems equally as important for me. I feel much more secure in finding rest as I grow in knowing both His sovereignty and His love.

Dawn says “The greatest result of Sabbath resting is the opportunity to know the presence of God, no matter what our circumstances might be.” It is nearly impossible to know His presence in our rushing and striving because our focus is on accomplishing. But when we choose Sabbath rest our focus changes and we can look for Him in our moments.

As Dawn moves on to discuss choosing physical rest in Sabbath keeping, one of her most important statements is this: The Sabbath is never a day to allow ourselves to be pushed (especially by our own false guilt or by other’s expectations) into activity of any kind.” It is so easy to be pressured into fulfilling other’s expectations or letting our own sense of guilt force us into doing something. Dawn says that if she senses this happening to her, she stops and puts the task aside for another day. The task can be done on the Sabbath, but has to come out of a different frame of mind. Her example was that of writing letters. She felt like she “should” write and when she recognized that feeling of “should” she chose not to write them on that Sabbath day. But the next Sabbath Day she did write them from a different mindset.

This section on choosing to rest also brought up God’s command regarding ceasing from work on the Sabbath (Leviticus 23:3). This means that planning ahead is necessary so that you really do have time to rest. This may mean spacing out your work differently during the week or rearranging your schedule. We have to choose to trade in our striving, hour after hour, for times to rejuvenate our bodies in restful ways.

Dawn shares that it has actually been scientifically proven through studies that our body’s need this kind of Sabbath rest every seven days in order to get revived from the strain of the other six days. A lot of different physical and mental symptoms can show up when we live with a continuous lack of rest in our lives.

I have noticed the importance of rest just recently in my own body. My neck and shoulders have been extremely tense and sore from stress, but as I have taken time to get extra rest I am not hurting as much. My body was screaming for the peace and quiet and sleep, and I hadn’t been listening.

When explaining the importance of emotional rest Dawn highlights how the Lord cared for Elijah in 1 Kings 19 after his dealings with Queen Jezebel. This story makes it very obvious that the Lord cares about our physical and emotional needs. It is one of my favorite stories because it so beautiful shares the Lord’s awareness of exactly what we need. 

As we choose to set apart the Sabbath and grow in deeper intimacy with the Lord we will find that we experience emotional healing also. I have found this to be true even as I regularly set aside a portion of time to be in God’s Word, the Lord leads me to new understanding of where I am at and His wisdom enlightens me. I am given tools to help me with the struggles I am dealing with, those that often so deeply affect my emotions. Sometimes it is the Lord Himself speaking to my heart impressing something on me. At other times He allows others to share and I will find healing in their words. Sabbath rest allows time for deepening both our relationship with the Lord and with others, and both are very beneficial to emotional rest.

Dawn explains, “…letting God be God in our lives gives us the freedom to deal constructively with our emotions, to accept them and listen to them but not be controlled by them.” Giving my emotions to the Lord as I go through my day is extremely helpful. Telling Him how I feel about this or that and letting Him be at work in it, gives my heart and mind peace to rest in. So it seems especially important to remember how being controlling can affect our emotions (I know, I have experienced those feelings more often than I care to admit,) But, again, it goes back to recognizing God’s sovereignty in situations and letting that be what controls my heart and mind rather than reacting out of my emotions.

The Sabbath also can give us time to explore our deep feelings and desires that have been buried under busyness and striving. We can take time in our resting to talk with the Lord about all that has been lost in the rush of the last six days. What deep feelings have we suppressed? What important desires have we set aside? The Lord cares and He wants to hear about them.

An important part of each day for me is journaling but often my time to journal is limited due to other demands. I have found that on the Sabbath I will spend an extended period of time journaling my thoughts, feelings, dreams, and desires. This is a very special time to me and I always come away refreshed.

Dawn states, “Emotional rest is especially induced by whatever calls for creativity and spontaneity.”  I have found, also, how much I enjoy just playing with watercolors. It is relaxing as well as being a creative outlet. My painting with watercolors tells a story in itself by the colors I use and the strokes of the brush. My emotions are vividly splashed across the paper.

Dawn shares about intellectual rest in terms of even rethinking the way we read the newspaper or hear the news on the Sabbath. She suggests allowing our knowledge of God’s sovereignty to reframe our thinking as we listen or read. The Sabbath gives our minds time to rest from fear and worry. We can free our minds to focus instead on how we can glorify the Lord.

We can get so caught up in fear and worry, mulling things over in our minds as we busily try to check things off of our to-do lists. But on the Sabbath, we set aside the striving and we can choose to rest our minds, again choosing to use those moments to give praise to the Lord.

Dawn mentions that she enjoys reading fairy tales as part of her Sabbath rest. it is all about finding aids to intellectual rest that leads our thinking down creative paths. We choose to use our brain in a more positive and restful way because on normal days our minds are overloaded with busyness. And we definitely need this renewing!

As I read many of these suggestion I realized that they could be carried over into everyday life even to give us a little Sabbath rest in each day. and that is something I want to do. I want to practice recognizing the Lord’s presence more and choose to rest in His Sovereignty more consistently. Sabbath day is a day to extend these practices throughout the day for greater rest.

The final aspect of rest I want to share from this book is that of social rest. Dawn suggests that, “Sabbath keeping fosters…an increase in our gentleness and tenderness, a non-aggressive stance towards others. The ability to dismantle our own power.”

She mentions that usually we only hear about “social unrest.” Social rest is just the opposite. She says that when our hearts and minds are nurtured by the Lord’s presence, we grow in tenderness and gentleness. It helps us to look at others differently. Life becomes less about power and control or aggression and more about living out His love. And that is an important part of how we should live as we celebrate the Sabbath.

Choosing to rest on the Sabbath does not mean sitting idle, staring into space. Often times, I think that this is our biggest fear. But instead we find so many options of ways to choose rest. So many options that I want to take time to try on my days of Sabbath rest. How about you? What ways intrigue for choosing rest on the Sabbath?

Next week’s post will be Sabbath: Choosing to Embrace. I hope you will join me.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Sabbath: Choosing to Cease

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.