Tuesday, February 28, 2023
Embracing Rhythms of Work and Rest: From Sabbath to Sabbatical and Back Again by Ruth Haley Barton
Lenten devotional by Lori Duncan
“Desire is the language of the soul and every spiritual practice corresponds to some deep desire of the human heart.”
“It all starts with longing and love as we allow ourselves to get in touch with the desire that stirs deep within our soul—desire for a way of life that works. . . . When we are brave enough to be in touch with this stirring of the soul, God meets us right there in the middle of our desire with the revelation of this amazing gift [sabbath] that is fitted perfectly for us. Then we simply say yes to a God who knows us so well and loves us so much that [God] has provided us with such a good gift—if we can just arrange our lives to receive it.”
“. . . the distance between insight and practice is huge . . . .”
A favorite saying of a former pastor of mine was, “The danger of knowledge is thinking you’ve done it.” As we learn about sabbath and sabbath-keeping during this Lenten season, what are some steps can we take to practice it, to receive and actually do it? Thankfully, Ruth Haley Barton gives some concrete steps we can consider, although we approach them with an awareness that they won’t all be easy.
One of the first things we do is pay attention to the desires of our hearts, since they reflect our inner longing for deeper intimacy with the creator and lover of our souls. This is a good thing! Once we recognize our desire for such “a way of life that works,” we can move on to more practical tips.
We can have a “sabbath box,” where we place things we’ve written down that we need to do after our sabbath is over, trusting God to hold them in the interim. We can determine time boundaries around use of electronics, especially those that contain elements of work or mindless distraction. We experiment with activities that restore and rejuvenate us (they will not be the same for everyone). We cultivate a like-minded community of people with whom to engage sabbath-keeping practices, supporting and encouraging each other along the journey, especially in the various challenges that comes with each stage of life. We ensure that the various responsibilities that still happen during sabbath (cooking, clean-up, child care, etc.) do not fall upon one person. We keep in mind that quiet moments of rest may bring difficult emotions to the surface—God wants to restore every part of us—and we remember that “. . . we can make the choice to be with God with what is and experience another kind of rest—the rest that comes through acceptance rather than denial.” The main goal is to actually move towards putting elements of sabbath-keeping into practice in our lives.
These efforts are always, always held in grace. We will fail. We will pick up our phones or binge-watch a TV show or otherwise violate a sabbath-keeping boundary we’ve set for ourselves. The point isn’t whether we succeed brilliantly or fail spectacularly—the point is that we keep choosing to move ever deeper into the gift of sabbath given to us by God.
God of all wisdom and comfort: We ask that you guide us into the thoughts, ideas, and practices for us—individually and as a community—that will help us move deeper into the sabbath rest that you have so graciously given us. Help us move beyond theory and knowledge about sabbath into actually doing sabbath, and help us remember to be gracious with ourselves and others as we learn to better hear your voice and follow your leading. In the name of Jesus, Amen.