This is part six in a series discussing Mark Buchanan’s book The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath. If you missed the previous parts, here is a link to Part 5, or you can start at the beginning with Part 1.
In chapter 3, Buchanan deals with the issue of busy-ness. He notes, with some poiniancy, that all of the efforts we make to gain time — hurrying between appointments, speeding down the highway, filling our calendars with things to do — end up having the reverse effect. We fill our days so full that we can rarely find something that really sticks out as memorable about the day. We can rattle off the list of things we’ve done (if our memory is good enough), but can we really list one thing that really matters? Have we learned something about those we care about most? What have we sacrificed in our efforts to gain time? Often, it is the things that we say we care about the most. Buchanan relates a conversation he had with someone about his biggest regret. Here was his response, and reflection on it.
“Being in a hurry,” I said.
“Being in a hurry. Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me. I cannot think of a single advantage I’ve ever gained from being in a hurry. But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all that rushing.”
Through all that haste, I thougth I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away.
Wow. This is the point of Sabbath. To stop. To reflect on our lives, and develop a habit of appreciating our time, and really redeeming it. When I talk to Joy, or my kids, am I focused on them? or am I focused on getting that done quickly so I can check it off and move on to the next thing on my list? Usually, I can honestly say it is the former, but any times that it is the latter is too many. Even worse, how do we treat our time with God? Do we look at time with God as something to be done quickly so we can get to all of the other stuff? Obviously, we know this shouldn’t be the case, but we should be honest with ourselves. For me, part of the point of Sabbath is to stop and remind myself to pay attention through life. Not so that I can “Win Friends and Influence People”, but so that I can be a true friend. The phony “salesman” type attention doesn’t really make us friends, or draw us closer to God.
We must change our mind about what is really important. Checking things off the list feels good, to be sure. However, if this is at the expense of time spent on what is really important, I’m pretty sure there is nothing there worth celebrating. Building up my kids is not something I can check off and consider done, even once they are on their own. Building my marraige is not something to “check-off”. If I spent time with Joy simply so that I could check it off my list of things to do each day, or some other ulterior motive, it will mean nothing to her. If I spend time with her focused on her and things she enjoys, then it is worthwhile, but it isn’t something that is ever “done”. I can’t check it off.
Buchanan shares a story about an interaction with a friend who was going through a prolonged illness.
One day he said to me, “I know God is trying to get my attention. I just haven’t figured out yet what he wants my attention for. He must want me to do something.”
I thought for a moment. “Maybe,” I said, “that’s the problem: you think he wants your attention in order for you to do something. Maybe he just wants your attention.”
Maybe that’s what God requires most from us: our attention. (emphasis in the original)
Sabbath is about giving God our attention. Not in order to get directions on what to do next, or place our order for what we need or want from Him. Sabbath is simply about making God our focus in a purposeful way. We focus on God for His sake, and ours. We simply enjoy His company, get to know Him better, and learn to value His perspective. We then can take this out into our lives the other six days of the week, but this is not the point! There is no “point” to Sabbath, other than our need for it. Sure, it accomplishes many valuable things for us, but if we go into Sabbath looking to create certain outcomes, we are going about it all wrong. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6.33) Don’t seek the things! Those come to you, but only if you seek Him first. And what are the things? Matt. 6.31 says “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ ” We’re told the Gentiles run after these things, but that we don’t need to. God knows what we need. Focus on Him, and He will worry about providing our needs. Note that we are not promised the nice clothes or food we might want, but God will provide for our needs if we focus on Him. Our attitude of reliance on Him will bring Him more glory than any “thing” we might hope He gives us.
Lord, may my life show my reliance on You. May I set aside time to spend with You. Not with my agenda, but emptying myself of my preconceived notions and agenda and allowing you to set the agenda. May I not only give You all of my time as I go through my life, but also dedicated personal time with You to listen, share, and enjoy the quiet times with You. I need You to get through life, and need You to reset my focus and perspective with the heavenly perspective that only You can provide. I love You, Father, and I know I hurt both of us when I don’t give You the time You deserve. May I see Sabbath as vital to life, even as much as breath. Spirit, draw me back to focus on You when I forget You, and make Sabbath the deepest desire of my heart.