Posted by: Beth | March 12, 2022

Rest = Shabbat? Nope

I have a long-time friend who practices Shabbat. My opinion of that has ranged from “Must be nice!” through “I wish I could do that,” to “No, I just can’t.” I’ve thought she was crazy.  I’ve been envious. 

Observing Shabbat is basically resting from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday.  (I thought. More on that later.) A Jewish custom, church leaders have added to the scriptures until it can be a major chore to follow all the rules.  I’ve even seen a kosher gas oven!  It automatically lights the oven before sundown on Friday, so that you can cook without lighting a fire. 

On the topic of rest — there are different kinds of rest: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual.  Most of us know when we need physical rest.  And if you don’t take care to get enough, eventually your body will take over your will to do things and you will rest when your body just stops.  Watching an active child plop on the floor and be asleep in five seconds can be entertaining.  Adults tend to push through those kinds of tired and it takes an illness to force the person to rest.

The need for mental and emotional rest can be a little more difficult to see, especially in ourselves.  It seems easier to detect in a friend when we can say, “You really need to take a break from ___(whatever the stress is)__.” Most of us tend to think we can deal with the cause of the stress later. Dealing with mental and emotional tiredness may involve more sleep, counseling, physical exercise, being outdoors, and better nutrition. 

Spiritual rest … well, let’s just say I had not thought much about spiritual rest. I have experienced physical exhaustion from trying to do too many church activities, including ministries.  I have experienced doing more physically and being less tired when I was doing what *I* was supposed to be doing. I have been exhausted in every way after spiritual battles.

I have had opportunities over the years to create some margin – some Sabbath rest. When our children were becoming teenagers, activities like church twice a week, karate, dance, and baseball filled our schedules.  And school – can’t forget that, even when you educate at home. One year I had had enough.  I declared that NOTHING would be scheduled on Thursday afternoon/evening.  That would leave a little time to visit family, watch a movie on the spur of the moment, catch up on laundry, or just do nothing. It was not always easy to stick to, and we did make a few exceptions, but overall the plan worked well.  As the years passed and activities changed, so did the day we “took off.” 

Then, in my late 40s, I was told by my doctor that if I expected to get well, I had to sleep eight hours a night.  Well, since I got up at 5:30 to get to work, that meant getting to sleep by 9:30.  I need at least a couple hours at home to do things and chill out before I can sleep.  So there I was, not a teenager but the parent of teenagers, with a self-imposed curfew around 7pm. What a life!

As time passed, of course things changed again.  I don’t always get eight hours of sleep, but I try for at least seven.  And I’ve had to learn to snatch rest when I can.  I have learned to sit in the summer-time shade and chill – physically, emotionally, and mentally – even when there is a list a mile long of things that I need to do.  Most days I’m up before anyone else so that I have at least half an hour of quiet time. 

I thought I was doing pretty well at resting.  And isn’t that what Sabbath (Shabbat) is all about?  Well, no, it isn’t.  I am sure there is still a lot I don’t understand, but while we’re working through Breathe by Priscilla Shirer, I am learning some things. The most significant (so far) is this:  Shabbat does not mean just resting your body. It does not mean just resting your mind and emotions.  It is resting in the peace of God, looking back at what he’s done, and looking forward to what he will do.  That may not seem much different from just being quiet in the mornings, reading a scripture and whispering a prayer.  But, for me, it IS different.  The Jewish greeting “Shabbat Shalom” has a deeper meaning for me now. Rest.  Trust in God’s provision.  Celebrate what God has done and will do.


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