I don’t know about you, but 2016 swept in a bit like a clumsy storm around here.
I had all sorts of good intentions of being completely prepared and organized and ready to start this year with all kinds of fervor and commitment. But then…reality. I turned around and suddenly it was January already and we were cramming to get a science fair project finished before school started back, while at the same time the house was turned upside down because I decided to go and clean out the entire attic and lay down a new plywood floor up there before we stored away all the Christmas stuff. Yeah.
And so here we are, already a full week into this brand new beautiful year, and I feel like I’m just now coming up for air, catching my breath and getting my bearings.
Today the house is quiet. The attic is finished and all the Christmas boxes and piles of memories are tucked away neatly. The girls started back to school on Wednesday and our regular routine is slowly starting to kick back in. The house is gradually being put back together and the tsunami that was Christmas Break has subsided. Even outside, the weather has calmed (it seems like it's been raining here for a solid month…), and it’s actually a little chilly outside (at least in the mornings ;) ...so who knows, maybe winter is finally settling in). So I am finally slowing down enough to really think about this new year and all the possibilities it holds.
I don’t really make a big long list of resolutions anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I love lists. I am a natural list-maker and I’m sure I’d have no problem at all filling up an entire page (or two…or ten) with lists upon lists of things I’d like to do and accomplish and improve this year. But for the third year in a row I am actually laying aside my big giant lists of “resolutions” and simply choosing one word to resolutely focus on this year.
In 2014 I chose the word “peace,” and last year I chose the word “listen.” I almost chose listen again for this year because I still feel like I have a long way to go in the area of really listening - listening to others, listening to hurts and to hearts, listening to hear the souls behind the stories… listening to God, listening to His voice and His Word….listening, not just to give an answer, but to really hear…listening better in order to love better. I’m still practicing my listening skills, still sharpening my hearing…I have a feeling this will be a life-long pursuit, this daily habit of slowing and stilling and listening.
But as I listened this past year, especially toward the end of the year, there was one area of my life that God started to gently convict me about…He stirred my soul and sparked a curiosity in my spirit. It’s something that, up until the past couple of months, I honestly have given little real deep thought to: the Sabbath. Holy Rest.
I know about the Sabbath. At least kind of. But I sure don’t live like I practice the Sabbath. Not intentionally or consistently anyway.
So I chose the word REST as my “one word” for 2016…specifically, Sabbath Rest. I want to learn what it means to really rest, I want to intentionally and consistently honor the Sabbath one day every week, and I want to cultivate a Sabbath heart that rests in Jesus every day.
I think what made me really land on the word “rest” was this book by Mark Buchanan: The Rest of God. I just finished reading it a couple of weeks ago, after slowly working my way through it for 2-3 months or so. I think I ended up underlining or starring or circling something on every single page. It is SO so good.
Honestly, I’ve never really given the Sabbath very much weight, at least not in practice. Whether it’s because I haven’t really understood it or because somewhere along the way I felt it was unnecessary or archaic, or maybe because I was simply too busy to pay it much attention…whatever the reason, I have not been super great about keeping that fourth commandment. Something tells me that it should be a little more than just going to church and taking a nap on Sunday…but sadly, that has pretty much been the extent of my Sabbath practice…and until now that hasn’t really bothered me much. But God has been changing my mind about the Sabbath, stirring my heart to something deeper, something more. I still have much to learn, but I don’t want to stop with just learning and knowing. I want to practice whatever He gently leads me to do.
“We need to change our minds, yes, but we also need to change our ways. And for this we require practices to embody and rehearse our change of mind. The physical is a handmaiden to the spiritual, but a necessary one, without practices—without gestures with which to honor fresh ways of perceiving—any change of mind will be superficial, artificial, short-lived. We might attain a genuinely new thought, but without some way of putting it into practice, the thought gets stuck in abstractions, lost in forgetting.” – Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God
I don’t know why I’ve brushed it aside all these years as something that isn’t really all that important, or at least I live as though it is not as important as the other commandments in Scripture.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11)
When I read the other nine commandments, they just seem easier to understand. Don’t kill…ok, that one I totally get. Don’t covet…yeah, I understand that one (although it probably gets broken more than I'd like to admit…). Don’t steal, don’t commit adultery, don’t take the Lord’s name in vain, don’t have any idols…I’ve heard lots of sermons about those, I get those ones… But the Sabbath? That one, I just minimize and brush aside for the most part. I make so many excuses for not really keeping it, mainly because I don’t really know how to keep it. I know it should be more than just a list of things you can’t do on that one day each week. But what is the Sabbath, really? What kind of work is it talking about? Isn’t that what made the religious rulers so angry at Jesus, because He healed and did good works on the Sabbath? Jesus changed everything when He came. So what does that mean for me today? Do I even need to keep it? How do I keep it? What does it even mean to keep the Sabbath day holy?
What does it look like to really rest?
I don't rest well. I can crash with the best of them, I can be lazy and procrastinate like a pro. But to really rest...?
Our culture is certainly not a culture of rest. Each day is squeezed dry as we try to accomplish and purchase and work our way ahead. If we’re not working at jobs on the weekends, we’re working to “catch up” on the weekends…there is not really a single day of the week that there’s not something to do or accomplish or check off the never-ending list of obligations.
But in all that busy rushing, I think maybe we’re missing something really important…
Mark Buchanan writes, “In a culture where busyness is a fetish and stillness is laziness, rest is sloth. But without rest, we miss the rest of God: the rest he invites us to enter more fully so that we might know him more deeply. ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ Some knowing is never pursued, only received. And for that, you need to be still.”
Then he writes of Sabbath that “…setting apart an entire day, one out of seven, for feasting and resting and worship and play is a gift and not a burden, and neglecting the gift too long will make your soul, like soil never left fallow, hard and dry and spent.”
And Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15, emphasis mine)
1 John 2:3 says, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.” (emphasis mine)
1 John 5:3 says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (emphasis mine)
His commandments are not burdensome. His commandments are a gift.
The Sabbath is a commandment. The Sabbath is a gift.
This year I want to unwrap that gift and see what beautiful truths God will reveal to me as I trust Him with my time and my heart.
So I got some new books to read (I’m reading from multiple perspectives, even theologies that may be a little different from mine, including a Jewish perspective, because I think I can learn a lot from how they practice the Sabbath and the heart behind all that they do), and I’m going to really dig deep into the Scriptures and pray through so many passages about the Sabbath and rest. And I’m going to try some new things to practice the Sabbath every single week and see what God shows me. I’m not even sure what it will look like week to week exactly, and I’m sure I’ll fumble my way through it and fail miserably at some points along the way, but I’m actually really excited to see how God will work in my heart, and even in our family, as we intentionally honor the Sabbath every week this year.
I’ve started building a playlist on Spotify of songs that will encourage my soul to rest in Jesus this year. You can follow the playlist or save it to your own playlists if you want…just click to listen:
And if you’re interested in learning more about the Sabbath, these are the books I’ve picked up so far: The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath by Mark Buchanan, The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel, Mudhouse Sabbath: An Invitation to a Life of Spiritual Discipline by Lauren F. Winner, and Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in our Busy Lives by WayneMuller.
Do you have “one word” you chose for this year? I’d love to hear what it is! :)
And if you'd like to get your one word (or any words) made into a custom art print, you may want to check out the Custom Design options over in the Shop! And now through January 31st, use the coupon code "ONEWORD2016" for 15% off any custom order!
Happy Friday, friends! I hope you will be able to make some space on your calendar to slow down and simply rest in the love of Jesus this weekend <3