The Sabbath

Friday, 6 February 2015

Recently, I have been thinking and learning a lot about rest.

This is the Bible study that we have started - Breathe, by Priscilla Shirer. When I first picked up this tiny book, I thought: Yes. This is going to be easy. It's so small! And she even prints the Bible verses in the book so I don't have to do constant Bible-page-flicking like I've done with previous studies.

Yes, I am lazy.

I am also wrong.



It's not easy. It's not easy at all. In fact, it's so hard-hitting that sometimes I have to put down the book and just ... exhale. Practically every sentence she writes seems to describe the way I live: busy constantly in my mind, always cluttered, plagued with guilt, never resting.

Rest. Sabbath.

The only thing I really knew about Sabbath is the basics: that Sunday should be a day of rest. No shopping, no working, etc. I always thought of the Sabbath as a kind of old-fashioned principle, because not a lot of Christians that I know follow it to the letter. I mean, how many people in my church spend Sunday evenings ironing uniforms and packing lunches? A lot. Because they have to. There's no time.

There's no time.

I've been thinking a lot about guilt recently and how it holds me back. I'm writing a post about it which I will finish at some point. There just seems to be a lot of pressure in our society. Especially as women. We have rich opportunities in our country. We can work in whatever field we want. We can excel in both career and family life. We can have it all. I see people carving paths for themselves as writers or vloggers or illustrators or artists purely through the internet. There's just ... endless knowledge there, and endless possibilities.

We have to work hard.

This is the thing, we have to work hard. It's not necessarily because everyone is striving for an amazing promotion or anything. It's more - societal pressure. How much can you fit in? How many activities can you take your child to? How many places can you go? How much can you do outside of work? How many people can you meet up with? How many enriching activities can you squeeze in for yourself? How many connections can you make on social media? This is kind of a good thing - it's good to have variety, it's good to love life, it's good to see the world and be with people - but it becomes something else, eventually. Society tells us we need to be busy to have a 'full' life.

But where is the chance to stop?

To rest?

To be still?

There isn't. Even with me, as a stay at home Mum. The only reason I'm writing this right now is because I'm having a bad attack of my trigeminal neuralgia and I've had to up the dose of my medication,and they're making me feel so spaced out I can't move very much. I am bound to the sofa.

Otherwise I'd be moving. I'd be cleaning or job hunting or sorting or cooking or something. I can't stop. Guilt holds me back. Because I feel I need to be busy. I feel a twinge of guilt, too, when Jellybean spends the day pottering around with me while I tidy up and try and keep on top of my hideous laundry situation. What does she get from that? I feel bad that we're not swimming or learning Makaton or something.

The thing is - she is learning. She's learning every day. She learns from me. She watches me and copies me. She sweeps up using the broom like I do. She strums the ukulele like Daddy does. She tries to put eyeshadow on her face because she's watched me put my make-up on (I put it on my eyelids, by the way. She seems to think eyeshadow looks good on her cheeks. And her chin.)


And her dolly.

She watches.

Does she see me rest?

Resting, I've come to realise, is not really about what you're doing, but more about the state of your mind. I am constantly busy in that sense. Things tick over in my brain all the time. I don't have room to just enjoy what's happening right now. I don't have room, even, for God.

Which is terrible.

The Sabbath is way more important than I thought. Did you know that God created rest? 'On the seventh day, He rested, and looked over at all He had done'. I always thought the rest part was an afterthought. I live my life, in fact, like rest is an afterthought. 'I'll relax, but only when I've done everything.'

Not so. God tells us rest is actually essential.

God didn't need to rest. But He did.

Why?

Maybe because He knows we need to do the same?

Maybe something about resting - stopping, pausing, creating peace in your life - is actually fundamental to the way we live?

Maybe it's more than an afterthought. Maybe it's key.

The thing is, the Sabbath is more than just a Sunday. It's a principle that we can apply to every area of life. What is crowding out God? What is becoming more important than Him, than anything else? How can I make space to just breathe?

Church is different for us now, on a Sunday. The mornings are busy as we get ourselves and Jellybean ready. During worship, I chase around after her as she enjoys the space of the church. In the sermon, I sit in the back and try to listen as she plays with the toys and brings me things to look at. Sometimes I am on Sunday School and have to get there early and bring things and help to set things up and try and make videos work to show the kids. Sometimes Chris is in charge of the camera during the sermon. That is church now, for us. That's just the way it is. And that's fine - that's part of having a small child. It's still important to go. It's still important not to miss it.

I do feel relief, still, when I walk into that building and see those people. I am aware that I need it, I need them.

But our Sundays don't look like the Sabbath I sometimes imagine.

I'm learning, though, that the Sabbath is a principle I can apply to every area of my life. In Breathe, Shirer writes:

'Somehow our culture has caused us to believe that busier is better. We've become unknowingly convinced that taking time to create rest and tranquillity means we are unfit, weak, or incompetent. We've reject the art of saying 'no' without guilt or regret. We've fallen prey to the myth that if we don't have as much or don't do as much as others, then we're somehow not valuable.'

Which sums me up, really.

I feel like I live in this tension. Between wanting to strip everything back and say 'enough', and wanting to gather more and more. More stuff. More money. More experiences. More things. More people. More.

I really want to listen to that voice that says 'enough is enough'.

Shirer also says this:

We have to know when we've worked enough, tried enough, gathered enough, purchased enough, said enough, stored enough, kept enough, created enough, produced enough, generated enough, consumed enough, laboured enough, expended enough, spent enough. Somebody has got to say 'ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.'

And now the word 'enough' no longer makes sense to me because I typed it so much.

But do you see? I'm so busy, all the time. When I'm with Jellybean, I'm thinking constantly, ticking over scenarios in my head that might not even happen. When I'm with Chris, I'm trying to just be with him, but the temptation of picking up my phone and flicking through Twitter is really strong. When we eat dinner, we rush. Thinking of the next thing. Thinking of bathtime and getting Jellybean to bed.

I can't remember the last time we ate a meal slowly and savoured it. The last time I laid the table nicely just for the sake of it, just for us. The last time we lingered over our meal and savoured both the food and our time with each other.

I can't remember the last time I just spontaneously prayed. The last time I felt prompted to pray for someone out of the blue.

I'm blocking out my loved ones, with this busyness. I'm blocking out God. And I'm gaining nothing by my frantic collecting of things and money and experiences.

Maybe the Sabbath isn't just about cutting back on certain things (although that is important). Maybe it's about my attitude. It's about making space, on whatever day of the week, to be calm. To be still. It's about having pockets of time in which nothing else matters but God. Nothing else matters but my loved ones who are with me.

'Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and the Lord your God brought you out of there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. That is why the Lord your God has commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.' - Deut 5:12-15

That is the point of having Sabbath. Is it not? To remember God. To rest in His presence. To reflect upon all He has done. And sometimes, I forget what I've been freed from. When I forget what He's done, I become very ego-centric. My mind is filled with thoughts of things that will benefit me and me only.

When I stop to remember all He has done, I am floored and humbled and amazed again. Because believe me, He has freed me from some stuff I wouldn't wish upon anyone.

I need to make gaps in which to just remember.

I need to make space to breathe.

I need to make time - proper, uninterrupted, focused time - for my husband and child.

I need to rest.

***

I have written about this subject before - here I talk about turning off all the noise of modern life, and here I talk about truly resting (which, funnily enough, I wrote a couple of days before we started our study, which is all about rest). It turns out, slowing down - stopping - is actually incredibly difficult and is something I'm obviously wrestling with right now.

Sorry for all the waffle, just getting things straight in my head. Expect more posts about this soon. Do you feel tired and burnt out by modern life? Comments are appreciated as always :)

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