As states and cities have shut their doors, and many of us are forced to settle into our homes, I can’t help but reflect on the idea of sabbath.
Sabbath, the act of resting and pausing, seems odd in this time of disruption, tensions, and unknowns. In a time where voices are loud, we are invited to find the whisper of the Lord in the still, steady spaces.
A rhythm of our faith, as people of God, is to “sabbath.” But not merely to stop and cease, but to joyfully surrender control and delight in our dependence on Him.
“Sabbath observance involves the affirmation that God is Creator and Sustainer of the world. To “remember the Sabbath” meant that the Jew identified the seven-day-a-week rhythm of life as belonging to the Creator. If the Creator stopped His creative activity on the seventh day, then those who share in His creative work must do the same. Sabbath breaks any pride that may accompany human mastery and manipulation of God’s creation. In ceasing from labor, one is reminded of one’s true status as a dependent being, of the God who cares for and sustains all His creatures, and of the world as a reality belonging ultimately to God.”
—Craig J. Slane
The call to rest and pause is the first thing many of us desire to do, but rarely can. Rarely are we consciously pausing to remind ourselves that we’re in need, highly dependent, and unable to self-sustain. And let alone is it done in joy and delight.
Sabbath was not only a day to rest, to pause, but it’s to be set aside as a sacrifice to the Lord. It’s a sacrifice to have no other thing to do, to have no other place to be, to have no other obligation. We are to give one day over to the One who rules and reigns over our schedule, roles, labor, and time.
This season is hard for all of us. Disruption is uncomfortable, tense, and awkward. We’re learning new rhythms on the fly, juggling new roles, and have had to shed our independence—which might be the hardest one.
But we’re all stopping, whether we’d like to or not, and are being forced out of something to be invited into a season of surrender, lordship, and trust.
We’re in a Sabbath.
A Time to Feast and Remember
Ancient Israel practiced this beautiful rhythm of festivals. Seven times a year, they were asked to reflect, pray, and pause. They would celebrate a specific story of their people or instruction of the Lord with week-long festivals. All work would stop, and the command would be to eat together, pray together, worship together, and remember.
“The observance of the festivals presented the participants with lessons on the reality of sin, judgment, and forgiveness, on the need for thanksgiving to God, and on the importance of trusting God rather than hoarding possessions.”
—Duane A. Garrett
But to shut down meant to leave the fields empty of workers and were left vulnerable to weather and insects. To shut down meant no livelihood for those weeks and living off what they had. Everyone was asked to pause what they were doing, shed their working clothes, and put on remembrance.
I can’t help but think of the time that we find ourselves in today, and what if during the chaos, we can find time to celebrate, be, rest, and remember? Can we will ourselves to Sabbath, to feast? Can we put down our phones and shut off the news? Can we can fight the anxiety of needing to fill our new-found time? Instead, can we find rest and presence amid the silence—allowing ourselves to be led into celebration and remembrance.
Can we find surrendered joy and delightful dependence.
A Holy Week
As we move towards Easter, my heart and soul resonate now more than ever with the reality of our Holy Week.
We can all feel the tension of longing for a better world, longing for things to change.
We see the brokenness of humanity, the fragility of life, the need for saving.
We’re confined, sick, brokenhearted, and poor.
Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection wasn’t only for our eternity, the ‘not-yet’, it’s also for our now, the ‘already.’
It’s so that we have redemption, restoration, and liberation both now and forever. We can experience it now, but we know it will come in its fullness when time ends, and our actual reality begins. When we no longer see dimly, but His Spirit gets to roam freely.
As those who believe a gruesome death brought ultimate life, we must live in these moments, in these times, being able to hold the tensions. We must practice the spiritual discipline of resting, pausing, and stopping—even in chaos. Of being able to feast and remember while our fields are left open, and working has stopped. Of holding the conviction that we worship a God who came for the sick, not the healthy; the poor, not the powerful; the weak, not the strong. And our whole lives we will live in the tension of the already and not-yet.
This is our time to resume our rightful place of putting down our plows and pointing people towards the horizon as we grip to hope, a living hope beyond what we can see, know, or feel.
Since we know He is a good Father (Matthew 7:7-11), and he calls himself Faithful and True (Revelation 19:11), this is our time to joyfully surrender, bask in our dependence, and delight in what we don’t have now but one day will.
May we learn to sabbath well in the disruption, feast on remembrance, and celebrate a death that brought ultimate life.