Faces on Faith: The gift of Sabbath time
Faces on Faith pick up columnist mugshot of Rev. George Morris – JL
Jesus invites us to rest. Spiritually shaped by Torah, he understood Sabbath as an invitation to rest from the tyranny of pursuit and choosing instead to embrace our lives as the Divine gift they are, not as a result of our doing and effort, but by our Creator’s gracious choice.
From such rest, we can live, work, and relate to life from an identity defined by God’s gift of acceptance rather than having to exhaust bodies, minds and spirits doing those things we hope will make us good, acceptable, and deserving. As a friend is fond of saying: “God loves you and there’s nothing you can do about it!”
In the midst of conversations on the rules and regulations believed to result in a person experiencing the good life, Jesus asks: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?”
Then he offers a way to wholeness and well-being: “Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matt: 11:28-30 The Message)
Charles Sobczak, in his novel Six Mornings on Sanibel, tells the story of two men: Richard, a successful and ruthless divorce lawyer whose life was coming apart at the seams, and Carl, a story-telling fisherman whose tales open the door of imagination for Richard to discern a better way of living for himself and his family. Richard had ‘come away’ to Sanibel and serendipitously learned from Carl and the tales he told what Jesus named “the unforced rhythms of grace.” On a plane headed for home Richard chooses to begin making changes in his life, and, as Jesus would describe it, “learn to live freely and lightly.”
Theologian Dr. Paul Tillich, in his book The Shaking of the Foundations wrote: “You are accepted. You are accepted by that which is greater than you simply accept that you are accepted!”
Keeping Sabbath time does not mean we run away from life, ignore our careers, or neglect self-care. It does mean that we choose not to exhaust ourselves in efforts to make ourselves good enough or acceptable to self, others, and God.
Instead, in our positive response to the invitation to ‘get away with me’ we discover the ‘real rest’ that is ours to realize as we accept our acceptance not determined by ‘doing’ but by our simply ‘being.’
There are those who suggest that God’s commands box us in, limit us. In my experience I have better realized life, inner peace, and a sense of purpose in the embrace of God’s ‘rules.’ Keeping Sabbath is not to be ‘burned out on religion,’ but is indeed a gift of God. When lived into as a day each week or an extended time of getting away from the routines of life we discover the joy of simply ‘being’ and are set free from what can be the heavy burdens of ‘doing.’
“There is a place of quiet rest near to the heart of God …”