// sabbath is a state of mind

Today is Sunday, and if you don’t work for a church, for most people today is a day off. For me, it was an extremely busy day off – but then days off frequently are. There’s always things to be done, from the routines (coffee and the paper in Caffe Nero) to the DVD boxsets that you have to watch your way through, to all the people who you want to hang out with – or should hang out with, maybe – not to mention planning, and cooking, and sleeping, and reading your bible, and getting a haircut…

Do you ever catch yourself thinking, where did all my rest time go?

All of those things are good things – restful things, even, when done in isolation. When you’ve had an insular week, say, settling down with a paper and with no music in your ears can remind you that the real world still exists, that it doesn’t all revolve around you. But it’s much easier, I find, to make the day that you have off the day that is all yours – the day where you indulge, where you ignore the God-stuff, and you just end up feeling kind of… bloated.

Yes, we were created as creatures that need rest, but all true rest comes, ultimately, in God. And don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean just spending time in prayer meetings or spending an entire day reading the Bible. But you know that bit where Jesus tells his disciples, “peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled, and do be afraid”? (it’s John 14:27, incidentally) Well, that’s a reminder that our peace doesn’t simply come from the world’s ways of finding rest – that true rest is found, in contrast, in learning to truly appreciate the rest time that you do have.

Stilling the voices that tell you that you’re valuable only if you’re productive, or that there are a million other things to be doing, or that you still have two more series of The Wire to watch.

‘Being still, and knowing that He is God’; learning the peace of Christ, what has already been done, and knowing what that says about you as a result.

Rob Bell, writing on Sabbath, the idea of a day of rest, talks about the moment when he realised that his life was “all about keeping the adrenaline buzz going… that I was only really happy when I was going all the time.” And his conclusion?

When I stopped to spend a day to remember that I am loved just because I exist, I found out how much of my efforts were about earning something I already have.

Sabbath is taking a day a week to remind myself that I did not make the world and that it will continue to exist without my efforts.

Sabbath is a day when my work is done, even if it isn’t…

Sabbath is a day when I am fully available to myself and those I love the most…

Sabbath is a day when at the end I say, “I didn’t do anything today,” and I don’t add, “and I feel so guilty”.

I would go further still than that, though. So, this morning in our 12-14s group we were talking about the presence of God; Deuteronomy 31 and Joshua 1 remind us that “God will never leave us nor forsake us”, while John 14: 16-18 talk about the Holy Spirit who has already been given, and 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 asks bluntly, brilliantly, “do you not know that body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you received from Christ?” All of those are verses that tell us that God’s presence is always with us, and yet for most of us our awareness of that presence is a rare and fleeting thing…

But what if we’re just not stopping enough to hear it?

Maybe Sabbath is a state of mind.

You know what it’s like to sit in a worship service, absent-mindedly singing of God’s greatness, whilst all the time thinking about what you’re going to have for lunch or the essay you have to write when you get home. You know what it’s like to ‘give God the time to speak’ in the morning without giving God any headspace at all. I know you do, because we all do.

Something remarkable happened this morning, though. Our normally rowdy 12-14s stopped. They sat and stared at a candle in total silence for five minutes and then, inwardly, they asked God to reveal His presence to them. The silence was deafening, and the moment holy; because it was a moment of remembering that this life is not, and has never, ever been, all about us.

It’s easy to do that in what looks like the most “spiritual” way possible. To make our prayers all about us and our achievement, all for the glory of God – as though the glory of God depended on us.

But that’s just not the way it works. In most cases, God’s glory doesn’t come from our striving. It comes from the peace that He has given us; in who we are in Him, or in what He wants to do by His spirit, or in the situation that He has called us to.

Maybe you disagree, but I find that liberating. A day off that’s not all about me? I’m all for that.

So here’s to Sabbath as a state of mind.

True rest, grounded in a knowledge of God and an awareness of His presence.

Now that sounds like a day off.

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    • Christine
    • January 25th, 2010

    Tom, thanks for this well crafted reminder that it really is all about him. That really, I am not God, and that he doesn’t actually need my efforts to keep the world spinning or the church growing.

    Thanks for the reminder that it is relationship with him that is the endpoint of the universe, and that we get to wallow in the glorious joy of all he is as often as we take the step to intentionally enter Sabbath space.

    May God bless you mate, as you love him with your whole self.

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