Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Art of Sabbath

I'm reading Jonathan Merritt's book Jesus Is Better Than You Imagined and he is talking about spending a weekend at a monastery observing a vow of silence. In exploring Zechariah, he makes this statement "Having first encountered this passage as a chile, I assumed God was punishing Zechariah thgourh Gabriel for probing the prophecy further. After all, I thought, God dislikes being questioned. But after encountering the Bible more broadly, I think more might be happening here...I now wonder if striking Zechariah mute was both a punishment and a gift. Rather than simmering over being questioned, maybe God knew Zechariah better than we...God knew he needed to stop talking in order to fully hear what God was saying, in order to receive what God was about to do in his midst."

Recently, I have been flailing against the life that surrounds me. Part of it is sheer exhaustion from working two jobs. Part of it is desperately missing the sense of purpose and mission that I had when I worked in non-profit. Part of it is just everyday human selfishness. I began this season sure God was doing something...but I also believed it would be short lived. I've been out of non-profit for over a year now. Maybe to God, that is a short time me, it's a freaking long time!

The crazy thing is that every time I stop and pray, I get an undeniable sense of peace...but for some reason, that didn't make sense to I flailed anyway. And I began desperately trying to apply for jobs in non-profit organizations and I put my boss on notice that I was looking for another job and I begged "please God give me this" and bargained and wheedled. I told God that since I didn't get to be married or rich, I really needed this. I reminded Him that my kids were old enough to leave home and it would be really, really nice to have a sense of purpose to distract me from empty nest syndrome (yeah, I did actually go there). And I stressed about it. Like, really stressed. And I was already stressed and tired. So it got ugly. Like the ugly where your kids see you come out of your room so they run to theirs ugly.

And then, suddenly I got it. And I didn't have quite the words for it until I read that particular chapter in Merriitt's book. I was feeling as though I was being punished. Like I did something that made me unworthy of the job so God basically 'muted' me. But He isn't punishing me at all. He is giving me the space for silence.

He is giving me the space for Sabbath. More than just a Sunday but a prolonged period of time to know Him, hear Him, and be with Him. And maybe it's because He's about to do something in the midst and maybe it's because God's more concerned with our relationship than He is the good works and the advocacy and all of those awesome volunteer groups. And that is a huge issue because, to be honest...I was more concerned with what we were going to do next, about who God wanted me to be, etc, etc. It was more about the doing, less about the being.

"When I pray am I truly trying to find out who God is, or am I trying to find out who I am?" 
~Oswald Chambers

Sabbath is about more than going to church, it's even about more than resting, it's a period of time to seek God in order to better know Him (that "Be still and know that I am God" thing). And it can be a longer season than 24 hours. I've failed to understand the season and have filled it with more work, school, etc. The sad thing is, as much as I love both my jobs, I can't say that working them both has made us more financially stable. If the car hadn't broken down or if we hadn't had to move twice in a six month period...maybe. But it's not worth the time I haven't spent with my kids or the fact that my friend-after years of praying and hoping-became pregnant and I didn't get to see the baby belly in person until her third trimester. It's certainly not worth the burn out and constant exhaustion and unhappiness. 

So, I sat down with my boss. Told him I was staying if he wanted me to. He did. And-being awesome-gave me projects I could sink my teeth into and a great raise. It was funny how, in deciding to stay, I almost immediately calmed down. And have had the most fantastic sense of contentment since then. I also told Horizon that I needed to work a lot less (though I love working there so probably won't give it up completely) and now I've had time to rest, hang out with my kids, help care for a friend of mine's children while she recuperated from surgery, and I get to help organize a nursery! And I have time to be quiet, to reconnect, to know God.

I think we have lost the art of Sabbath. We've confined it to one day, decided what it needs to look like or forgotten it's importance all together. We've forgotten the beauty of it. The creativity that is found in the midst of it. The discipline of it. For me, at least, it was time to take that back.

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