Rhythms: Rest/Sabbath

Monday 11 July

Craig Stewart is busy. He has three children. On top of that he heads up a ministry in Cape Town called Warehouse that exists to serve the church network in its response to poverty, injustice and division. Not a simple mission. He’s also a mountain bike and kayaking enthusiast who dabbles in Ultimate Frisbee. Finding the rhythm of rest and Sabbath is a journey in the midst of this busy life. Kerry Stewart provides a summary of how on a rainy morning in Sligo, thousands of miles from home, Craig revealed the importance of discovering what this looks like.

“When I was thirty-five I had two young children, I had founded an NGO and was feeling very self important. I don’t naturally lean towards rest, as I‘m an activist with a tendency to think that the world needs me, so I burn the candle at both ends.  

When I was thirty-five my appendix was busy bursting which meant a couple of weeks in hospital that became a time of rest and restoration, I’ve discovered that if you don’t find rest, then rest will find you.

The same can be said about the Sabbath. If you don’t take the Sabbath, then the Sabbath will take you.

My work is focused on poverty and justice issues. There is always more to do. There are problems that haven’t been solved. I lay in bed at night knowing when I wake up I’ll be staring at many of the same giants as I faced today.

But with me, quiet time is tinged with guilt rather than as a gift of generosity and grace from our Holy Father. The place of spiritual rhythms is our deep, inside longings of our souls. You need to ask yourself, what is my deepest longing? I know that now I peruse the Sabbath because in doing that I find the opportunity to realign myself and be present in the places I want to be truly present.

In 1 Kings: 19-6 the Lord asks Elijah, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

This demands a pause. A time to think about the answer.

What would it mean to hold the Sabbath? To find a regular space to rest together and feast together? The rhythm of rest enables me to be present. When I’m not, then I’m absent.  In rhythm I can hear God’s voice more deliberately.

Isaiah 58: 13-14 says,

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honourable and if you honour it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Life within limits

We like to think that everything is ours. It goes right back to the original sin. Adam and Eve believed there was life without limits in the garden, so they ate from the apple. Stepping into the rhythm of rest recognises that life has limits. So much of life is not my work, even if I’d like to think it is. My work is to be obedient to what my Father calls me to. He will bring transformation.

A choice to step into a rhythm requires decisions. A life of pursuit is a life of making decisions. This happens when we start to think how we can make it possible, to commit to carving out the time and choose to make courageous decisions to pay attention to His quiet still voice saying, “You are my beloved.” I have heard this because I have stopped and listened to His voice. I now know it is built in as a rhythm; I now know that it is there.

The discipline of doing this creates freedom.

Exploration and celebration

Resting in the Sabbath does need to be communal. It should be about being with people who can encourage and feed me. It is bigger than one family. I have a tendency to run away and isolate myself, run to my cave when things get a bit much. There is a time for that in life, but not on the Sabbath.

There are certain things that I exclude on the Sabbath, which you should consider.

1) Work. My work gives me significance. A deliberate strategy for me is to not do things that give me that unhealthy feeling of significance so I must disconnect.  

2) Commerce. Buying and selling. Today is sufficient for what I need.

3) Worry. There is a lot to worry about but I focus on how I’m going to lean into receiving God’s goodness today. The book of Mark tells us that the Sabbath was created for man, not man for the Sabbath.

What I Include on the Sabbath

1) Rest for the body

2) Replenishment for the spirit

3) Restoration of the soul.

It’s good to remember that not everyday is a feast day, but some days are feast days. Give yourself permission to delight in what feeds your spirit. Allow yourself time to explore and celebrate the rhythms that work. Discovering the love of the Sabbath brings deeper love, delight and joy.