13 “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you. (Exodus 31:13)
At the time of writing I find myself sitting in starbucks watching the world rush on past as I try to pause from the never-ending tide of busyness that seems to overcome me. I constantly flirt with the culture I live in, continually finding myself being pushed along without really ever stopping to think about what I’m doing or where I’m going. I often feel like a bit of driftwood, harmlessly and naively floating off into a big ocean, with storms on the horizon.
God became a blur to me during my first term at university, just another concept and ideology that was apart of the seemingly endless pattern of life. How had I let the maker of the universe, the God who loves me and calls me to fully rely on him, develop into just a blur? He had just become a part of my life….. Yet the truth is he is everything I need. I know this so well and I’ve blogged a lot about it, yet my heart leads me to build my life on other securities. I find myself drifting into the dangerous state of being religious, doing the right things whilst gaining contentment from the worldly idols around me, whether they be friendships, words of affirmation, abilities or even my own sense of righteousness. A great sister of Christ articulates this battle so well in her blog and I fully recommend you check it out as it displays brilliantly the trap I find myself in so often.
The truth is we live in a busy culture, everything happens so quickly and we are constantly drummed into a pattern of linear functioning, working like robots for hours on end. I find my diary constantly full of meetings, events and reminders. I remember sitting down over Christmas and realising that I needed to learn how to stop, to pause, to breathe, to be still and know that God is God (Psalm 46:10). Yet when I opened my diary I found a life of busyness, a list of commitments, not bad commitments, just commitments. With a heavy heart the reality that I had become too busy for God began to hit home. How is it my relationship with my God, my Saviour, my Dad and best friend had become contained to a quick pray and bible reading before I ventured to the safety of my bed at the end of a long day.
You see we’ve lost the art of the Sabbath.
My Sunday, set aside as ‘God’s day” has become consumed with doing Godly stuff rather than stopping and listening to God, I’ve become like Martha (Luke 10:38-42). The problem is is that its a sly problem. Because I do ‘Godly’ stuff I think everything is ok and yet actually I become a Pharisee, dwindling on my own righteousness and acts. I often see it as ok biblically, I mean Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for being too ritual on the Sabbath (Mark 2:23-28) and yet too easily I slip into the way of the world, busy every day of the week, falling into the trap of believing Godly stuff will keep me and God ok. This is not something I believe Jesus preaches. I think I (and all of us) need to relearn what it means to keep the sabbath Holy (Exodus 20:8) in the 21st century, finding the balance between not becoming ritualistic but not becoming a captive to the trap of culture and ignoring it completely.
Its a part of our very make up to rest.
God lays down the example in Genesis 2:2, by resting on the 7th day. He then commanded his people to keep it: 12 “‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:12-15) It was a day Holy (set apart) to the Lord. It was a reminder for the people of God that he is their God. Even with the busyness of being an Israelite the Sabbath day was there to remind them of the God of their ancestors. The sabbath was made for man as a reminder of the covenant we have with God. You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:30
So why have we lost this day?
We become busy and settle into the pattern of going through the motions, or at least I do.
The sabbath has become just another day, its not set apart to God, or at least for me anyway.
So here is the challenge; to rediscover the art of stopping and breathing in our busy culture.
Recently I’ve taken Friday to be a day set apart for God, a day where I try to stop and listen to my maker by fasting, pausing and seeking after God. Its been quite a journey. I find the best way for me to stop is to escape my everyday surroundings and walk into the countryside. As I was walking one Friday I stopped, pausing to hear the sound of creation at peace, just being. In that moment I put aside the worries of deadlines, friendships and future and stopped to hear the sound of quiet.
I became a human being for the first time in a long while.
I was learning to be still and know that God is God. In pausing I heard the still small whisper of my Dad that was so often drowned out by the never ceasing chatter of my soul. As I paused I realised that once again God is everything that I need, he is my peace and I need to rely on him. I realise that I need to stop relying on worldly things and realign my life with Gods. Relying on God is so hard in our culture where there is so much vying for our attention. Yet when I do stop and pause I find myself at peace before my God, slowly but surely stepping forward in the journey of building my life on him. He is everything I need and in relearning the art of the Sabbath is part of the journey of learning to Love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul and Mind. (Matthew 22:37)
Its comes at a cost though.
With a life already so busy I find myself wrestling with what I can drop. For four years I’ve played football on a Friday with some lads and this has been something I have loved doing. I’ve grown to love the lads as my brothers and I always hope and pray they may find God. I argued for a long time that I couldn’t drop this. I loved it and believed it does good. Yet God is my priority for he is my life. It was a painful sacrifice to make, but if it means growing closer to God then its a sacrifice that is worth it. I never want to fall into religion and so for me its about giving the time to God and if something comes up asking God if its right to do. For I don’t want to become a Pharisee and not do the Lords work, even if it is a sabbath day
. What do we put before God in our lives?
What can we sacrifice in order to grow closer to our loving father?
How would setting aside time to God work in my life?
I’m on the journey of trying to rely on God, and I struggle, constantly relying on people and myself. Yet I know when I stop and rely on God there is joy. I stand firm.
Lord, Help me to learn how to stop. To learn to breathe in in this life. I confess I am too busy and have often let you become just a concept in my life. I know that you are my shepherd who leads me beside quiet waters. Help me to stop and set apart time for you, for you are all I need. Help me to build my life on you, for I know that you are the only firm foundation in this world. Help me to not be religious but to be a child after your own heart. Amen