Lenten Devotional – Fourth Sunday in Lent
The root idea of Sabbath is simple as rain falling, basic as breathing. It’s that all living things – and many nonliving things too – thrive only by an ample measure of stillness. A bird flying, never nesting, is soon plummeting. Grass trampled, day after day, scalps down to the hard bone of the earth. Fruit constantly inspected bruises, blights. This is true of other things as well: a saw used without relenting – its teeth never filed, its blade never cooled – grows dull and brittle; a motor never shut off gums with residue or fatigues from thinness of oil – it sputters, it stalls, it seizes. Even companionship languishes without seasons of apartness.
God stitched into the nature of things an inviolable need to be left alone now and then. The primary way people receive this aloneness and stillness is, of course, through sleep. We can defy slumber only so long – propping ourselves upright with caffeine, manufacturing artificial alertness with drugs – but past a certain point, we collapse. We must submit to sleep’s benign tyranny, enter its inescapable vulnerability and solitariness. Unless we do, we die…
The tricky thing about Sabbath, though, is it’s a form of rest unlike sleep. Sleep is so needed that, defied too long, our bodies inevitably, even violently, force the issue. Sleep eventually waylays all fugitives. It catches you and has its way with you.
Sabbath won’t do that. Resisted, it backs off. Spurned, it flees. It’s easy to skirt or defy Sabbath, to manufacture cheap substitutes in its place – and to do all that, initially, without noticeable damage, and sometimes, briefly, with admirable results. It’s easy, in other words, to spend most of your life breaking Sabbath and never figure out that this is part of the reason your work’s unsatisfying, your friendships patchy, your leisure threadbare, your vacations exhausting.
We simply haven’t taken time. We’ve not been still long enough, often enough, to know ourselves, our friends, our family. Our God. Indeed, the worst hallucination busyness conjures is the conviction that I am God. All depends on me. How will the right things happen at the right time if I’m not pushing and pulling and watching and worrying?
Sabbath keeping requires two orientations. One is Godward. The other is time ward. To keep Sabbath well – as both a day and an attitude – we have to think clearly about God and freshly about time. We likely, at some level, need to change our minds about both.
Unless we trust God’s sovereignty, we won’t dare risk Sabbath. And unless we receive time as abundance and gift, not as ration and burden, we’ll never develop a capacity to savor Sabbath.”