This is part seven 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 6, or you can start at the beginning with Part 1.
The title of the fourth chapter is In God’s Time: Stopping to See God’s Bigness. Buchanan claims that the point of Sabbath is preparedness. It trains us to have clear judgement in times of peace in our lives, so that we can know how to have clear judgement when everything goes crazy around us. He talks about the ways that Jews kept the Sabbath through persecution, exhile, and even the holocaust.
As the rabbis are fond of saying, more than Israel kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath kept Israel. I would alter this slightly: to the extent that they kept Sabbath, Sabbath kept them. Sabbath living orients us toward that which, apart from the rest, we will always miss. (emphasis in the original)
The Sabbath was not an afterthought. It was something that held the community together. An outward, community, form of worship. The Sabbath service also plays an important role in the movie Schindler’s List. There is something powerful in stopping to focus on God individually, but I think the power of a community stopping together is even more powerful. Of course, the focus on God is necessary for there to be any power. Just taking a break to do something different is not the same thing as Sabbath.
On another note, Buchanan has an interesting thought about busyness.
[T]he worst hallucination busyness conjures is the conviction that I am God. All depends on me. How will the right things happen at the right time if I’m not pushing and pulling and watching and worrying? …
[U]nless we receive time as abundance and gift, not as ration and burden, we’ll never develop a capacity to savor Sabbath.
Who do we depend on? If we don’t trust God fully, we will feel that we need to make things happen (leading to pride?) or that things are inevitable and there is nothing we can do (leading to despair?). If we trust in God, then we must believe that He can handle things while we take a day off. Or, as Buchanan puts it:
If God can take any mess, any mishap, any wastage, any wreckage, any anything, and choreograph beauty and meaning from it, then you can take a day off. If he can’t, get busy. Either God’s always at work, watching the city, building the house, or you need to try harder.
The key, in Buchanan’s view, is thankfulness. This makes sense. If we look around our world and find ways to rejoice always, to give thanks in all circumstances, it displays a belief that God is in control of everything, and a willingness to rely on Him to take all of our garbage, and make a beautiful masterpiece out of it all. We need to be able to praise God for what He is up to, that we cannot see. I am thankful every day for a God who is big enough to see more than I can. A God who is not limited to my view through my eyes, limited as I am by time and space, is a gift like no other! What looks to me like a mess, like a pointless ruining of my plan, is not my problem anyway! It is God’s responsibility to make all things work together for good. I also need to be humble enough to trust that God knows what is for my good, and the good of His Kingdom, much better than I do! When He works things for my good, I may not realize that it is good, until I have His perspective.
How can I get closer to having His perspective? Sabbath! How fitting that God has foreseen and provided for my need to get His perspective in my life. I am enjoying this book on Sabbath, not because it is telling me all sorts of new things I never knew, but because it is reminding me to take the time to practice what I know and what I say is important to me. God is big, and I need to spend time in His presence to remind me that compared to Him, my troubles are small. Also, I need to spend time with Him to remind myself that He loves me so much, that I can trust Him to watch out for me and what is really for my best. Praise God!!