Sabbath Way of Life

By Nate Dunlevy

Sabbath Way of Life: Slowing down to create space for regular rhythms of resting in God and his grace.

A People Created To Rest

The Lord, the Lord our God, he is one God.

The most fundamental truth in the universe is this simple thought. God is one.

Saying it, thinking it brings a sense of calm. God is whole and complete. He’s not harried or fragmented, and he doesn’t have difficulty concentrating. Because God is one, we as human beings are also one, with a deep-seeded drive toward integration and a fundamental need to live out his image in our lives (Genesis 1:26).

We long to be whole and complete, both as people and as a people, experiencing deep connection and respite from the fragmentation of life. Physical, spiritual, emotional, to be so fully integrated in our own experience that we don’t perceive the distinctions between feelings and physicality. This is what it is to be in a resting state. We long to relate to ourselves as we were created.

We long for this state with each other. We want to be one, for the boundaries and barriers and walls to come down, to know and be known, to love and be loved. Rest makes us whole with each other.

God himself is the producer of this state of both personal and interpersonal unity and rest. He drives us into knowledge of him, unity with him. This is a state he calls “eternal life” in John 17:3.

Because the Lord, the Lord our God, he is one God (Deuteronomy 6:4). He is alive and wants us to be so as well. God calls us to this state of peace so we may experience the oneness of God filter down to our own connection to ourselves and to each other. Sabbath, he calls it. And he means for it to be permanent (Hebrews 4:1). Rest is the culmination of all his creative work. It’s the natural celebration of the completion of all things (Genesis 2:2-3).

A People Deprived of Rest

When the pastors surveyed Soma church about the health and state of our congregation, the loudest, clearest warning signs came surrounding this idea of Sabbath and rest. Simply put, as a community, we are not practicing rest. We are not experiencing rest. We are not at rest.

I have no interest in laying guilt on anyone or tying up one more heavy load to lay on you about one more way in which you are failing to please a maniacal God who is never happy even with your best efforts. Shoot, I know our elders and leaders all struggle with this idea. There’s too much do, too many burdens to carry, too far we have to go to bother resting. So, I’m not at all surprised you all aren’t experiencing Sabbath in your lives.

When we don’t get the rest we need, the rest we were created for, we become depressed, frustrated, quarrelsome, discontent and isolated. We pull back from God, from our family, from our friends, and often even from ourselves.

As we think about the consequences of not living into this rest God has promised, I’m going to skip the physiological and physical benefits of rest. They are legion, but also well-documented. I think we all agree that rest is healthy and healing. That’s hardly controversial.

Instead, allow me to encourage you with this thought: God has more for you. He wants more for you. He has richness and life and purpose at hand, ready to pour out on you. And all he wants you to do to experience it is...nothing. He is beckoning you into his rest, so you can lay down your work for a day and enjoy him, and enjoy his people, and enjoy yourself. God asks you to pause your creative work, just as he did, because you need to recreate. Do you see it there in the word? Re-create. Rest, recreation, Sabbath re-creates us as we are meant to be.

A People Practicing Rest

If you’ve never seen or experienced healthy patterns of rest, here are some helpful ideas that have made a difference in my own life.

Eagerly seek rest. If you aren’t the kind of person who sets your work down one day a week, don’t be proud of that. There’s no virtue in never resting. It’s foolish and arrogant to be a person who works him or herself to the bone and ignores God’s design. To pursue rest is to acknowledge your own human limitations as well as the higher purpose God has for your life. If you are too proud for rest, then you cannot be intimate with God. It is not possible.

Develop a predictable pattern of life-giving activity. No matter what day of the week is your sabbath day, have a repeatable, predictable set of activities. This helps reduce the mental load of having to worry about what to do. My family takes naps and has family dinner at my parents’ every Sunday. Everyone knows what the plan is and not having to make one helps. I don’t know what things bring you life, but I know that identifying them and make inviolate space for them in your rhythm will help you rest.

Set down your work. Don’t do your day job on your sabbath. If you have a 9-to-5, this
means not answering email, or checking in on things. If you are self-employed, it’s
setting down the life-swallowing details long enough to think. If ministry is a dominant
theme of your life, either vocationally or not, your sabbath should be an opportunity to
be ministered to. If your day job is parenting and administering a home, find ways to get a break from the daily grind. Maybe it’s pre-made meals or letting your spouse find recreation through meal preparation, or just ordering a pizza. Moms and dads need rest too, as much as it can be found in the crush of early parenthood.

Set down your cares. This is the hard part. You stop working and you start feeling, and thinking and sweating over all the pains and anxieties of life. Often we don’t slow down because we are afraid of what will happen if we do. When you rest and you feel the clutching feeling in your chest, that is the moment to seek Jesus. Cast your cares upon him for he cares for you. Lay down your yoke and pick up his. It’s light and easy. It’s restful I can’t tell you what is restful for you, but it will likely contain elements of relationship, of a break from your daily responsibilities, and a space for deeper connection with God.

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