Friends, life is beautiful. Yes, it’s fraught with heartache and disappointment, sickness and tragedy, but it is also full to the brim of breathtaking beauty. And I’m afraid in our busy world of tasks and jam-packed schedules we are missing out on the beauty. The pain is hard to miss-it stops us in our tracks. It knocks the wind out of us. But beauty beckons softly. God speaks in a still, small voice, and is therefore easily drowned out by our busyness and noise. We’re driving 90 miles an hour down a highway surrounded by mountains and ocean, and we are too focused on getting further down the road to stop, or even slow down, and notice the awe-inspiring view. No wonder so many of us feel depleted.
Sabbath is about slowing down. It’s about putting our tasking and scheduling on pause and noticing the beauty, drinking it all in. It’s about taking the time to linger in thankfulness to God. In Sabbath, we exhale our worries and stress and breathe in God’s goodness. That’s part of what it means to follow this command: “You and your family are to remember the Sabbath Day; set it apart, and keep it holy. You have six days to do all your work, but the seventh day is to be different; it is the Sabbath of the Eternal your God….For the Eternal made the heavens above, the earth below, the seas, and all the creatures in them in six days. Then, on the seventh day, He rested. That is why He blessed the Sabbath Day and made it sacred.”
In some Christian circles there is sometimes a great deal of religiosity associated with “the keeping of the Sabbath” (imagine those words being said in a dry, condescending voice). But Sabbath is not about formulaic rule keeping. That just reeks of legalism and is in no way a good representation of Jesus. I love Jesus' words:
"The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27, NLT)
Sabbath is a GIFT from a kind and merciful God. It’s a practice that signifies we are God’s children, we are devoted to our Father, and we are celebrating this beautiful life he’s provided. Sabbath can look a thousand different ways to a thousand different people. For me, lately, it’s taken a few different forms.
There is a wonderful place just far enough outside the city to be serene, and near enough to be accessible even just for the day or for an afternoon. The Knowles Mercy Center is a place of refuge for me. Every so often, I take a “personal retreat day” and go out there to be alone with God. I don’t hear a single “MOM!!!!”, I don’t get phone calls, and I have a chance to silence all the frantic activity and chaos that is my daily life. I pray, journal, read, and relax. I walk the trails, I sit in silence by the water, I recline in the hammock and stare at the clouds, I listen to the birds sing. I do all the simple, restful things I don’t have time for in my day-to-day routine, and I do it for a WHOLE DAY. It is the most GLORIOUS thing. I look forward to these days like a 5 year old would look forward to Disneyworld. It makes me giddy just thinking about it. Time stops, and I can just be. I have no roles to fill except that of dearly loved daughter. A few weeks ago I was there and it was the last cold winter day we’ve had this season. I’m not generally one to enjoy the cold (95 degrees and 100% humidity-now, that’s my jam…not sure how I ended up in Nebraska), but as I spent a day out NOTICING winter, I realized how gorgeous it is. I walked in the pure, clean snow, each footstep crunching loudly through the silence of the cold. I stopped to notice the tiny tracks signifying that I was sharing this path with other creatures. I sat beside the partially frozen lake and listened to the melting ice crack, like gunshots piercing the silence. I marveled how bright the sunshine is when it’s reflecting off a landscape covered in white. It was stunning.
A couple weeks later I had a super hot date. Yeah, that’s right, hot dates can be Sabbath, as long as it’s not the “nervous trying to impress the other person” kind. It’s Sabbath for me because my husband is my favorite person in the world to hang out with, and because I know I can let my guard down and just be me. He’s the best in the world. My in-laws are also the best-they spent time with our precious girlies so we could go out alone. That night, the weather was divine. 73 and sunny, with a light breeze. We enjoyed the drive from out here in the suburbs to downtown with the windows down and the music loud. The old market was buzzing with people because of the gorgeous weather, so we wandered aimlessly until we spotted an open table outside at our favorite restaurant. Simple, fresh, delicious food. Red wine. Conversation, both deep and silly. Three and a half hours went by without notice. We savored. We laughed. We lingered. When we finally decided to meander away from the restaurant, we found ourselves walking slowly, and wondering at the sheer perfection of the meal we had just shared. It was true Sabbath.
That’s when we stumbled upon one of those bike share stations. I saw the look in my husband’s eyes-he loves to bike. It’s not that I don’t enjoy biking, it’s just that I haven't biked for, oh, maybe a DECADE. But I’m a sucker for both my husband and a little adventure, so I yanked that sucker out of the rack and hopped on with gusto. I’d love to tell you “it all comes back, just like riding a bike” is a saying I experienced to be accurate, but I did NOT feel natural trying to maneuver that clunky bike. There were more than a few hairy moments, one or two unfortunate encounters with helpless pedestrians, but truth be told, it was the most fun I’ve had in years. Despite making a fool of myself, it was exhilarating, and I felt the heaviness of life just melt off. I felt pure, unadulterated joy. That, right there, was Sabbath.
Sabbath is not about rules, it’s about rhythms. It’s about finding the balance of work and rest, and slowing down to notice the beauty of life and thank God for it. It can look so different for each of us, and it can vary with each season of life. What has Sabbath been looking like for you lately?