Last month, many readers responded to my column on Sabbath. Many of the comments and questions were focused on rules: which day of the week should it be? What should be prohibited?
For someone who doesn't practice any Sabbath at all, to argue about the day is to jump too far ahead in the journey. As we mature in our Sabbath practice, God may lead us to a specific day. But we have to start where we are, and often, that means just being convinced that taking a day off is a good idea.
Ironically, many churches are the ones pushing people to work (i.e. volunteer, attend endless meetings, etc.) on Sabbath.
The word Sabbath comes from the Hebrew word Shabbat. It's a verb, which means primarily to cease or desist, and secondarily, to rest.
In other words, God says, on the seventh day, Shabbat: simply stop. Stop running, stop working, just as God did on the seventh day of creation. He ceased his labor and enjoyed what he had made.
Is doing children's ministry work? Or is it worship? Or perhaps both?
When Jesus walked this earth, he invited his followers to do ministry. Their ministry was energizing and effective (see mark 6: 12, 13) But in response to their ministry success, he invites them to come away and rest from that ministry (Mark 6:30,31).
If you do the work of children's ministry, you may find it brings you into an appreciation for, and connection with, the love of God. Still, don't neglect Jesus' invitation to take time to rest.
Here's what Jesus says: "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly" (Matthew 11:28-30, The Message).
That's a pretty compelling offer—one that invites us to live in a Sabbath rhythm of rest and work that will empower our ministry but also feed our souls.
Here's an excerpt from my book Breathe, where I write about Sabbath in greater detail:
Maybe you seek rest, but you are not sure how to get there. Some of us find we are able to occasionally enjoy rest and recreation, but we see them as completely compartmentalized from our spiritual lives. We've got "spiritual" stuff in one box, our "work" in another, and our "recreation" (often extremely competitive or dangerously escapist) in a third. They never connect. But that doesn't sound like living freely and lightly.
For some of us, depending on how legalistic our background is, Sabbath might seem like a restrictive or punitive deal. Or it may be something we feel we want but don't have the foggiest notion how to access.
Finding Sabbath rest, regularly practicing the Sabbath, will form our spirit into the image of Christ. When we find rest in Sabbath, that quietness can spill over into our lives, including our prayer life and our communion with God.
"One translation of the biblical phrase 'to pray' is 'to come to rest.' When Jesus prayed he was at rest, nourished by the healing spirit that saturates those still, quiet places," Wayne Muller writes. " … This can help us begin to understand one aspect of Sabbath time: a period of repose, when the mind settles gently into the heart."
In my own journey, I have sought Sabbath. I am finding it in the embracing of a paradox: Sabbath is about freedom but also about surrender. It's trusting God to act, but it's also about making choices and acting on them.
What would your life look like if you were to "learn the unforced rhythms of grace?" How would your coming to Jesus both feed your soul and empower your ministry? There's only one way to find out, and I challenge you to actually give it a try.
Keri Wyatt Kent is an author and speaker. Learn more at www.keriwyattkent.com
Copyright © 2007 Promiseland.