white space keeps a sabbath heart 1

Sabbath keeping is a form of mending.
Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God

Do you ever look down at the edge of the sleeve on your favorite sweatshirt or a corner baseboard in the kitchen or the toes of your socks and notice the fray, the chip, the hole? You suddenly realize that spot needs washing, mending, painting or patching. You might even wonder when that wear and tear happened.

My body and soul can be tattered like that sometimes. My heel needs a bandaid, my heavy eyes need to close, my weary heart needs tenderness, my soul needs refreshment. My being need mending. Some souls around me might need mending too.

It seems I cannot write to you about white space for soul-keeping without getting around to Sabbath-keeping. Sabbath rest seems like the purest white space designed by God for tending one's soul.

God woos us into rest, by resting.
Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God

God made Sabbath for rest, not just for resting when you’re close to exhaustion and mental breakdown (God wasn't even tired when He rested), but at regular intervals. Every seventh day. Even when your work is not polished and complete, especially when your work is not polished or complete. Sabbath was meant for peace and the sacred.

God truly meant for us to get to the heart of Sabbath for He also made land Sabbaths, every seven years to let the land rest and feed the poor. And He made the Year of Jubilee, land Sabbaths times seven, every 49 years, celebrated in the 50th year, to return land to those who lost it. Sabbath has something to do with restoration and freedom.

How do we keep the Sabbath in modern life today? With a lot of thought, creativity, attention and swimming upstream.

I don't have to tell you, we live in a 24/7 world. We'll maybe I do. Do you remember we used to get some help from our culture taking breaks and deep breaths, and making Sunday a day set apart from the others? Malls closed early Saturday night and stayed closed all day Sunday (GASP!), grocery stores had shorter hours and some items like cigarettes and alcohol were not sold on Sunday. We expected all kinds of stores to be closed on Sunday and planned accordingly.

Before cellphones and email, lines of communication on Sundays other than face-to-face fell silent. We actually had to wait for snail mail and it was not delivered on Sunday. Before cable TV and streaming, TV programming was shortened on Sunday and different than the rest of the weekdays.

Now, of course, we can shop in stores and shop online, watch and communicate all day and night every day and night. No one day is very different than another for commerce. We live in an endless stream of work, shop and do. So where does Sabbath wisdom live?

When I was in Architecture School, I took several Engineering Calculus classes that stressed me out completely. I joined a study group to get help from brainy students in the School of Engineering. Turns out we had to meet on a weekday as two of the boys were Orthodox Jews and observed the Sabbath. From sundown Friday to sundown Saturday there were a list of things they did not do. Study for one. Answer the phone for another. Also drive, ride in a car, cook, shop or turn things on and off (lights, washer and dryer, the TV).

These were nineteen year olds at a mega university; in a demanding, competitive, no-time-was-ever-enough-time atmosphere. I remember being floored. How could they give up 24 hours of studying and the stuff of life?

I was finally a practicing, Bible reading, authentically-trying-to-love-Jesus in real time Christian, but I had no Sabbath keeping discipline or delight other than going to church and college Bible study, which is no shabby start. I didn’t understand all my Jewish friends rules or reasonings, but I could see the heart of it, setting aside time out of the fray to honor God. And I admired their counter-cultural commitment to honor God, no easy task at a state university for the better part of every wild weekend.

Their rules might not be the whole story for me as a Christian, but my faith roots begin there. My Jewish friends challenged me to pay attention to and take care of God's call to Sabbath-keeping. I could stand to learn a few things from them.

I am still figuring out what Sabbath-keeping looks like for me. I will tell you of my small findings tomorrow.

These tiny thoughts about Sabbath rest are giving me glimpses into the wide open prairies of keeping a Sabbath heart. I am getting inklings of generosity, goodness, healing, delight and helping others.