Cozy cuddles. Hot tea. The sweet scent of flowers. Tiny hugs. Vacation.
All beautiful, restful moments.
Yet the rest we crave -- the deep soul-giving rest that brings life and vigor -- is so rare. Cozy cuddles and tiny hugs last only briefly. The scent of sweet flowers is fleeting. Hot tea is gone too quickly. And we all know that we often need a vacation after our vacation.
As I was reading through the Old Testament this year, I began to be convicted of my lack of rest, particularly my lack of Sabbath rest. Over and over God chastises His people for not obeying the Sabbath. His anger is repeated again and again through many pages and prophets, and this particular sin seems to be mentioned more than most others (although I didn't actually count).
After a while, I finally seemed to get it. The Sabbath rest was the only commandment (of those 10 biggies) that I neglected to follow. This year I changed my mind.
(Please understand, I am not trying to convince anyone of the importance of the Sabbath. God speaks to us each individually, and there are plenty of people out there arguing both sides of this debate. I just want to tell a little piece of my story, in case someone else is standing where I stood in the early spring.)
But the concept of the Sabbath was relatively new to me. I had heard the sermons. I had read stories. I knew people who followed the commandment to rest. Yet, I couldn't quite wrap my head around it. What would it mean for me? What would I do to rest (yes, I actually asked myself that question)? What does rest mean for me? Is there something else I should do, except for rest?
Whenever I have questions, I start reading. So I read through some websites and ordered several books. And lots of pages later, I am glimpsing the Sabbath beauty, and I am so very ready to see more of what God has in store for us on this special day.
So far, two things have cemented my understanding and celebration of the Sabbath more than anything else. The first is this -- the Jews were the first people who had some sort of day of rest. All other tribes and people could work their slaves to death. They had no external sense of rest for the "other" (slaves, foreigners, servants). When God (through Moses) introduced this day of rest, it was a novel concept. There were no weekends, no 40-hour workweeks, no regulated kindnesses shown to slaves or servants. And then God said, "I give you a gift. You may rest."
It is a kind, good, loving God we serve. It is a God who knows what we need before we can even ask. It is a God who sets up a system in which we will have time to commune with Him.
And the idea of communing with Him is the second is thing that has helped me come to grips with what the Sabbath should be. Although the Sabbath is a gift, it's not purely about us. I shouldn't have to say that, but it actually is a huge point. I never learned to take the Sabbath seriously before this spring because I knew that I could push through and rest a little here and a little there. In this day and age, we can get by without a Sabbath, even though the idea of a full day of rest sounds really nice. But, in truth, I would never do it for myself.
When I started reading an older book written about the Sabbath (as much of the new stuff does seem to be more "me" focused), I realized that the Bible says to keep the Sabbath day "holy", which means it is dedicated or consecrated to God. The Sabbath is a day not only for rest, but for remembering God, for serving and worshiping the Creator, for singing songs of joy, for putting aside all thoughts of money and the world, which hold our minds in a staggering prison, while clamoring for more of God. And in that, we find the type of rest that no vacation day could ever provide. But let me repeat---it isn't about us. It is holy. It is God's day. So even though I couldn't choose to rest for myself, I decided I had to do it out of obedience to God.
And so the Sabbath for me has been a learning experience. Learning how to shut off the world. Learning how to be still. Learning to be obedient. Learning to rest. And learning to be filled by a God who loves us so much that He told us to rest.