"Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me for I am meek and lowly and you shall find rest unto your souls." Matthew 11:28
This is my life verse. I continually come back to it because it is not something that I embrace naturally. The concept of entering into God's rest is something for which I long, yet struggle to do. I know that it is ironic to say I struggle to rest, but it is the truth of the matter. It just does not come naturally to someone like me. Because this is an area within which I strive, I am constantly reading books and placing myself in situations that will feed this side of my spiritual life.
Over Christmas break I inhaled Lauren Winner's Mudhouse Sabbath. Winner is a Jewish intellectual who was on staff at Columbia University. While in the midst of her Orthodox Jewish journey she was attracted to Jan Karon's At Home In Mitford and came face to face with her Jewish Messiah, Jesus. But after several years of walking with Christ she realized she missed the rhythms of Jewish life. Most importantly she missed the pattern of the observance of a Sabbath day. Winner's writing in Mudhouse Sabbath invites fellow Christians to embrace the benefits of our Jewish roots.
After being impacted my Mudhouse Sabbath I finally read a book that I grabbed at a friend's house. It was one of those instances where you ask to borrow a book, you put it on your nightstand and there is sits and convicts you. You know you need to return it but you don't want to return it until you have read it. And so your conscience smites you each time you look at it. The name of the book is The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan. It is subtitled Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath. I finally picked it up and began reading it from the middle (you know I like to cut to the chase). I confess that I rarely read books of this type because I am too hyperactive. I love fiction and British literature, this is neither. But it wowed me. I found myself carving time out to read it and getting irritable when I was interrupted. Mark Buchanan is a Canadian pastor, father, husband, writer, and speaker. He is a super-busy guy. He weaves stories, illustrations, and anecdotes that deeply connect with the story and rhythms of Sabbath. Buchanan is definitely not a legalist and is not going to put anyone under the law. He shares from his own frantic, driven life. I relate to his struggles.
I found his book to be liberating, convicting, and yet strangely calming. Buchanan writes of how difficult it is for us to relinquish control and to let God run the universe. The concept of rest is diametrically opposed to this. Our taking a Sabbath nap declares that God is in charge, and we are not...and that He can be trusted.
A lot of people who have been raised with slavish practices regarding the Sabbath may shudder at the very term, yet Buchanan shares that in the Jewish mind the Sabbath is so treasured that is it looked forward to for three days and then rememberd for three days of each week. The rabbis tell us to welcome the Sabbath as a bride coming to your home. You would give her your best food, your beautiful clean house, and you would wear your best clothes. Your home would be honored by her presence. It would be a joy, not a burden.
Buchanan emphasizes Sabbath as being "other." You pick a day of the week, and during that day you intentionally do things you don't do any other day of the week, and conversely - you don't do the things you normally do. If you check your email twenty times a day during your work week, maybe this would be a day to unplug. If you never cook or eat a meal in community or as a family, or if nature experiences are out of your daily loop, these may be your Sabbath focus. Love making with your spouse, taking walks and afternoon naps are all encouraged by the Jewish rabbis as blessed activities on your day of rest.
As Edith Schaeffer titled her book years ago Christianity is Jewish...it is, and we are missing out on the rich traditions of our forefathers if we neglect our spiritual hertiage.
"Thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; in returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength." Isaiah 30:15