Friday, August 9, 2019
What do you think of when you hear the word, "sabbath"?
Maybe it is not a word you have heard much in your life, so you might think it is a new trendy kind of facet for your shower.
Maybe it is a word that is dripping and drenched with negative images of everything you CANNOT do - no dancing, no going anywhere, no laughing, no having any fun whatsoever on Sundays doth declareth God at some point. Straight from the bible to the lips of your relatives who made you feel two inches tall when you asked if you could go to the movies one Sunday afternoon...after all you did sit through that really loooooong sermon just that morning ~ shouldn't that count for something!?! You thought to yourself but didn't say aloud.
Maybe the word, Sabbath, evokes a longing within you for rest, renewal, space to be still and simply be in the midst of the busyness of the day.
In the most basic definition, Sabbath means, "and (God) rested". It means to cease, be still, stop doing for the sake of being. One of the truths of Hebrew words, like Sabbath, is there is not just one definition, but one word can mean many different things. The first place Sabbath is found is in Genesis 1, where after six days of singing forth creation, after collaborating with the chaos to call forth what was maybe hidden in the tangled twisted-ness of soup before all that we see and sense came to be, after six days of speaking and blessing (calling parts of creation 'good'). God rested. But that doesn't mean creation stopped or ceased forever.
As most artists will tell you, you need to step away from your work every now and then. I am currently working on a devotional for Advent that will be posted daily on this blog ~ spoiler alert. For the last week, I have refrained from picking up the work. I needed to give the words I had written and edited some breathing space...I needed some room to let my thoughts go in different directions. You walk away...so when you return...you feel refreshed/renewed to continue.
God resting...not because the work was finished...but so the work might have time to marinate in the soupy sauce of life.
This sinks deep into my soul because for the last sixty days I have been on Sabbatical. It isn't like I just sat around and binge watched Netflicks. I went on a great family vacation, a continuing education event in Chautauqua, NY, I spent time writing an Advent devotional that you will have a chance to read, and am currently working on two classes I will be teaching in the months to come. I laughed with family. Read more books than I had since my seminary days (including some fiction books!). Saw a few movies. Went for lots of walks. Did some work around the house.
Initially, a seventy day Sabbatical sounded like a lot! Since I was fourteen, I have always worked somewhere. I have washed dishes, I have shelved books, I have answered phones at a credit card customer service call center, and for eighteen years ~ I have been a pastor. My identity was tightly tied to my work. Who I was...was the role for which I was paid. What would happen to step out of that rhythm and routine? Who would I be?
In the coming weeks, I want to share a bit about the past seventy days. More importantly, what is lingering in my soul and in my life from this experience from trying to cease/rest/stop. For me, I have rediscovered Sabbath. Room to rest and breathe and be. I do not need to measure my life by what I got done or crossed off a list, but by how my body, mind, and soul were doing. I need to listen to what my body, mind, heart, and soul are saying. It is, I have come to realize again, in the stopping and ceasing that traces of God's grace became just a bit clearer for me.
It is my deep prayer that in hearing my story, you might find pieces of your story rising and resonating and reverberating?
What is Sabbath? A gift. A gift of time. A gift of space. A gift that we cannot earn or deserve. A gift for all (I mean all) creation.
Grace and peace ~~