Sabbathing

 

A friend of mine in Boulder, Colorado took a real interest in Sabbaths. She often complained about how Americans were working more and more hours every year, and she and I began talking about sabbathing. There was no such word in the dictionary, but we wondered how we could bring a sabbath moment or time into our days.

 

In the extreme, we thought this: We can become God’s new creation, God’s new people, but we’ve got to learn to keep the Sabbath not just between 8:30 a.m. and 12 noon on Sundays. We’ve got to keep the Sabbath every day, every hour, every moment of our lives. So my Boulder friend and I agreed to practice sabbathing, i.e., seeking to rest in the presence of God during the ordinary moments of our lives.

 

I had as my own model Brother Lawrence, a 16th century Carmelite monk, who wrote in one of the few writings he left behind: “I have left off all devotions and prayers which are not required for me, and I occupy myself solely with keeping myself in God’s holy presence. I do this simply by keeping my attention on God and by being generally and lovingly aware of Him.”

 

Brother Lawrence called it “practicing the presence of God moment by moment, or…a silent, secret and nearly unbroken conversation of the soul with God.” This conversation brought the Carmelite monk great contentment and both inner and outer joy.

 

The “outward joy…is so great,” wrote Brother Lawrence, “that in order to restrain it and keep from revealing it, I am forced into childish actions that appear more like madness than devotion.”

 

My practice of this kind of sabbathing was good enough to help me deal with a long commute through Metro Denver traffic and the busy life of a pastor. In my secret heart, I wanted to be “forced into childish actions that appeared more like madness,” but that sadly never happened to me. But sabbathing provided me with many wonderful, refreshing moments.

 

An alternative school for the gifted and creative rented space in our church building. I mentored the alternative school children in creative writing. I’d find myself laughing and refreshed by their imaginative creations.

 

When the morning sun behind a cloud looked like a seraphim peering down over the edge of heaven, I’d pull over to see how long the image would last. This was a wonderful sabbathing moment for me.

 

When at night the moon over the lake I drove by reminded me of the Lewis Carroll line, “’Twas brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and gimbal in the wabe,” that, too, was a sabbathing moment.

 

When in a Sunday School class we were comfortable enough with each other to disclose our deepest doubts, the prayers and laughter we shared were truly a sabbath healing.

 

These do not begin to touch upon the sabbathing moments I have been blessed with. As Brother Lawrence says, God “does not require a great deal of us…In the midst of your work console yourself with Him as often as you can. During your meals and your conversations, lift your heart towards Him from time to time; the slightest little remembrance will always be very pleasant to Him. To do this you do not need to shout out loud. He is closer to us than we think.”  

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