Blindsided by God. The Delight in Rest.

There are so many topics I want to write about. Authority, grace, hope and guarding life are just a few of them. But there’s one that continues to stir within my heart, passionately. I think it’s because it’s so seldom talked about accurately and so grossly abused in practice. So, here’s another installment on sabbath.

One of six bonfires that are lit each night  where my wife and her family are staying,  along the north shore of Lake Superior .

One of six bonfires that are lit each night where my wife and her family are staying, along the north shore of Lake Superior .

Currently, on the north shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota, there’s a petite cluster of women and a couple of babies enjoying the sites and sounds of the great north. Four generations have gathered in a pleasant, resort-style house to catch up on the deeper things of life – like making clay flower magnets and swimming in frigid waters. A few years ago my wife, who is one of the participants in this family-only getaway, started spending at least one week a year with her Mom. These trips started out as mother-daughter-only gatherings. They’ve now turned into, mother-daughter-mother-daughter-baby gatherings. I’m so thrilled for them! Bonfires at night, late morning wakeups and lots of laughter and play make up their “exhausting” days. What a delightful place to be with glorious people!

My wife’s exodus from our home affords me the opportunity to be a “married bachelor”. I take full advantage of this, too. I still bathe regularly and put the toilet seat down (never quite figured out why guys make a big deal about this), but I do eat more seafood, take longer to get home on my motorcycle and watch Sci-fi movies. It’s the unforeseen blessings that I’ve come to enjoy the most over the past four months and with my wife gone, the atmosphere is ripe for these out-of-leftfield experiences.

Now, my usual sabbath day is Friday, but due to a week-long, overnight event last week, I wasn’t able to partake as I normally do. So, on Sunday after some morning activity, I came home and prepared lunch for myself. I don’t remember what I had because it was quickly eclipsed with an overpowering feeling that I hadn’t felt since the early part of my sabbatical in April. I had nothing to do and nowhere to go and it was glorious! Although I cherish my wife her absence created a “blindsided-by-God” moment that helped me understand another aspect of sabbath or intentional, spiritual rest.

We live in an amazingly hectic and busy world. In a previous post on sabbath (see, "Man as Machine") I wrote about “the pattern of this world”. As I learn what it truly means to sabbath – to cease from work and related activity, to enter into intentional, spiritual rest, recuperate and reflect – I’ve come to loath the pattern. It’s so antihuman. This cliché phrase is worth repeating ad nauseum: we are humanBEINGs, not humanDOINGs! The pattern strips us of this fact and we’ve become more dysfunctional than we realize because of it. Part of being human is to delight in creation and that which has been gifted to us. This is one aspect of sabbath that I’ve come to rejoice in.

As my wife romps in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, I get text messages from her of things she wants to share with me. She sends some photos of scenes that are especially pleasant  and she knows I’ll like. I, in return, send her photos of our dogs. What I experience in her photos is this: they’re all grounded in the act of delighting in life. It’s absolutely beautiful. This is one of the mysteries of sabbath that we’ve lost and must be reclaimed. But it conflicts with both the secular and church cultures. That, my friends, is absolutely heartbreaking. I lived it and I now see how it has permeated every cranny of life.

Let’s go back a bit to the Creation account in the Bible. After each act of creating the LORD said, “It is good.” On His final act of creating humankind, He said, “It is very good.” Can you sense the delight in the heart of God with these simple words? If it were me, I could see myself with my hands behind my head, feet propped up on a tree trunk, a blade of grass between my teeth and  a massive smile across my face in satisfaction. THIS IS GOOD! And that is delight!

The Hebrew phrase [‘It is very good’] communicates a sense of joy, completion, wonder, and play. This is particularly radical in a culture like ours, both secular and Christian, that is ‘delight deficient.’ Because of the way pleasure and delight have been so distorted by our culture, many of us as Christians struggle with receiving joy and pleasure.
— Peter Scazzero, “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.”

How many of us truly, intentionally delight in life? Since my sabbatical and with the reading I’ve done, I now find myself delighting in small things. A crisp apple I’m eating. The wiggle of my little dog’s butt as he searches for mice in our garden. The snap of a string bean as I prepare it for dinner. I wasn’t like this before my sabbatical, not to this extent. But mystically, in the promise of honoring intentional rest, I’ve discovered gifts that have been waiting decades for me to unwrap. I was too busy to even see they were there! I was too wrapped up in the pattern!

One of the significant aspects of a sabbath is to learn to delight in God, creation, living and the simple things that surround us. Regularly and intentionally focusing on rest, recuperation and reflection should also include delight. And this delight should be focused on God and what He has gifted to us through grace. Regardless of where you are socio-economically, we’ve all been gifted something. We’re responsible to not only properly utilize and distribute these gifts but to also properly delight in them.

I believe some of you fully understand what I mean. For those of you who don’t, I pray that you would begin to deeply search the mysteries that await you. However, this is my greater fear, that far more of us think we know what sabbath is but we really don’t have a clue. That’s where I was and to be honest, that’s where I think I am still. I’m approaching sabbath with a lot more humility and intrigue than ever before. Don’t miss out on the many blessings and delights that await you by honoring sabbath. Please don’t forfeit the rest, recuperation, and deep reflection that sabbath offers.

Trust God to run the universe without you. Begin to look at your weeks as preparing for Sabbath! Ask yourself, ‘What kinds of activities bring me joy and delight? What truly replenishes me?’ Take a nap. Enjoy God. Do something totally different from your work.
— Peter Scazzero, “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.”

So, what will it be? Will you choose to be busy and continue to flow in the pattern of this world? Or, will you go rogue, throwing off the constraints of society and delve deeply into the soothing salve that sabbath offers? It is a choice and it’s a tough one, but it has promise of delightful gifts waiting for you to enjoy.

Will you choose to participate in the "feast" that awaits you in sabbath? There's more there than you can possibly imagine! PS: This was a fantastic feast laid out for a group I was with in Louisiana while serving to help restore New Orleans from hurricane Katrina.

NOTE: I’ve been amazingly blessed to discover the truths of sabbath on my own. But I had to wade through a lot solo. I strongly recommend the book, “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality”, by Peter Scazzero. He spends significant time on sabbath and gives some really great direction. There are other good books on sabbath, some from ancient times. Overall, keep this in mind: the sabbath was created with you in mind, to serve you, restore you and for God to come close to you. You were not created to simply keep the sabbath, but to delight in all that God has for you as you intentionally seek His presence! After all, you're a humanBEING!