Psalm 131 (A song of Ascents, of David)
“O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;
My eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
Too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with its mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the LORD
From this time forth and forevermore.”
For those of you that follow me on Instagram, you know that recently I have been digging into a new habit; the habit of keeping Sabbath. Now I don’t do this in really any kind of formulaic or even strictly religious way, but God has been tugging at my heart about this topic for awhile now. And after reading the book Rhythms of Rest by Shelley Miller, I realized that resting on the Sabbath is a gift that God wants to give to me, even me in my busiest seasons with little people at home.
Let it Rest
A couple weeks ago my husband and I were blessed with a little time away as we look forward to the arrival of our third child sometime in the next few weeks. When we got to the house at Breck, all we could hear was quiet and bird song. At least, that’s what we noticed first since we are used to living in a house with two rambunctious young children.
The quiet brings with it this peacefulness, and I wanted to let that peacefulness seep into my bones. The breeze was blowing through the open eastern windows that first morning, keeping me cool as I sat at the dining table to write. For me, a 35 weeks pregnant lady in a Colorado July, this escape to the mountains was an escape from the heat of the lower altitudes as much as it was an escape from the busyness of our every-day life. As I wrote at my computer during the early morning freshness, all I could hear was the breeze in the trees, a hawk circling somewhere nearby, and the clack clack of my fingers on the keys. And being away, I didn’t anticipate any sounds other that that. It’s easy to let the silence invade in a place far away from the usual rhythm of everyday life with it’s typical responsibilities, but how do we let that silence invade during our normal week? How do we come to rest on Sabbath, when our every days lives are so full of constant needs and demands?
Plan for Rest (the practical) ,
As I have been sharing in mini-blogs and posts on my instagram, for me the practical aspects of Sabbath include preparations. How to rest on Sabbath includes, planning for rest. For us specifically, this looks like preparing food enough food on Friday that we can enjoy delicious things to eat on Sabbath without my having to cook. It means making sure I’ve run any errands that I need to run by Friday night, and planning to do any crazy house cleaning or projects on any day other than Saturday. It means I make sure I’ve taken out the trash and wiped the counters, and that I’ve washed the vast majority of the dishes before the sun sets and we use paper plates for the next 24 hours. We take our time drinking our coffee. We watch the goats graze. We read the Bible and extra stories to our kids and spend time asking them questions and listening with undivided attention. We take naps. We have a movie night. We eat a special dessert that I prepared on Friday. (Homemade Goat milk ice cream has been the favorite of late!) In short, though it looks different from week to week, we choose to spend this set apart day in “peaceful celebration”.
For you it could be similar, or totally different. You could celebrate on Saturday like us, or any other day of the week that works better for you. Maybe you eat out on Sabbath instead of cooking the day before. Maybe you stay home, or maybe you go on a hike or a family adventure. Maybe you spend time in your garden because that is life giving to you, or maybe you spend most of the day reading or in quiet reflection. Maybe you refrain from doing anything “extra” no matter how great the temptation is. It doesn’t really matter exactly what you do or don’t do, so long as you are choosing with intention what you will do or not do, as an act of worship, and for the sake of true rest.
Anticipate Rest (the spiritual)
But even more important than these practical aspects to think through is the preparation of spirit we need in order to cultivate a truly meaningful Sabbath rhythm. I call this anticipating rest.
Anticipating a time of peacefulness of spirit; of rest, is part of preparing our hearts to receive what God wants to give us on Sabbath. Like the traditional setting of an extra seat at the Sabbath table, he asks us to come expectant, for him to show up. And he doesn’t show up empty handed.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
We prepare our hearts for Sabbath when we allow the LORD to set our expectation. Does it seem too high to you? Does it seem like with your life, your circumstances, your job, your kids, your ministry, that he couldn’t have meant YOU when he promised rest? The word “all” is pretty inclusive though isn’t it? Maybe this is strong, but I think we have to work pretty hard to willfully misinterpret what he meant there… and yet, how many of us do that?
Pride and unbelief will try to steal the dearest, sweetest, promises of scripture away from you. The promise of rest is one among many that I think it has become so culturally easy to ignore. Perhaps we’ve let our God become too small. Perhaps we read that verse as a comforting intention for what he would like to give us, if only he were able. But of course, saying that out loud, it’s easy to see what an insane heresy that is.
The God of the Universe promises rest! The God who formed mountains and seas; who designed the expansive universe and also designed the smallest function of every cell in your body. The God who died on a cross for sinful man and them RAISED HIMSELF FROM THE DEAD… this God promises rest.
He doesn’t say, “Come over here and we’ll see what I can scrounge up to give you…” He isn’t sorting through his pockets for loose change. He is the God who makes promises, the God who keeps promises, because he alone is the all powerful deity with the ability to actually, perfectly, do both.
He promises rest. He built the law of rest into his world on the 7th day after it’s birth (Genesis 2:1-3). He put commands for rest in the center of his very law (Deuteronomy 5:12-15). And when he came to earth to live among us, he lived and breathed Sabbath rest even in the rigors of his earthly ministry (Luke 5:16).
Do you believe me yet? Rest is and was God’s idea. And he longs for us to come to him anticipating it.
We can sit with him quietly, like in that passage from the Psalms, we can tell our soul to sit quietly like a weaned child on his mother’s lap. We can surrender to him and his kind intentions towards us. We can choose not to worry about the things that are too great and marvelous for us. We can lean in to trust the one who has nourished us and carried us thus far, who has promised to carry us still. We can anticipate that our needs will be met, just as they have been before. Like my son Boaz rests with me now that he is a little older, he lays his head on my shoulder and asks nothing more than to be held. And I will hold him, often, for as long as he’ll let me.
Dear Reader, if rest has long seemed too far out of reach, remember that the spirit of Sabbath exists even in the smallest moments when we quiet ourselves before the Lord. When you humble yourself. When you remember who he is, and who you are, and that that world will keep spinning with or without you. This next week, I hope you find some time, be it a whole day or even just an hour, to quiet your soul before him. Do whatever it takes to set aside some time with intention. Prepare to Rest. Then come anticipating Rest. Keep your hands open. Remember his great love for you. Don’t let Satan lie to you any longer; no matter who you are or where you are at today, this invitation is for you.
You can follow my journey towards rest and Sabbath at @gracieishomesteady, or with the hashtag #learninghowtosabbath if you’d like to see my weekly posts on this topic specifically. Please feel free to leave me a comment there, or here, or shoot me an email if this topic resonated with you and you’d like to learn more. I’d also love to hear how your time of rest went if you pursue it with intention this week.
May we Cultivate a Fruitful life, by God’s grace and for his glory.
P.S. Speaking of rest, as many of you know we are due with our sweet baby boy in a couple weeks at the time this blog will be posted. As I didn’t make it to my due date with either of my first two babies, I don’t expect to with this one either, so if you don’t hear from me for a hot second, then you know why! Stay tuned to my Instagram for baby updates, as I’ll likely post there first. I do have some bomb-digity guest posters scheduled to help me cover a few weeks in August, but wanted to let all you readers know ahead of time. Looking forward to this special time with my family, and to returning to you with even more stories of God’s sufficiency in providing rest by his grace, through the sleepless newborn days!