Today’s post, my beloved readers, will be about Sabbath observance–but wait! Before you all immediately begin dividing into two camps and proclaim that either (a.), Jesus never told us to observe the Sabbath anywhere in the New Testament or (B.), that I should have been making this a part of my Christian life long ago, give this post a chance and try to internalize the principle of the thing. For, really, I’m not discussing church attendance, Sunday vs. Saturday observance, or the lack of work in the strictest sense. No, really, I want to try to express the ineffable joy of the Normal Christian Life–and with it, one more tool that I have found helpful.
Several months ago, the Lord Jesus called me to holiness and to a stronger, greater, deeper love for Himself. He called me in a marvelous way that will not soon be forgotten. Since that time, I’ve been far from perfect–those sinful ways that I’ve attempted to abandon ever since I came to know Him still remain with me to some extent–but I have been trying to love, worship, and serve our Lord more fervently. The changes are gradual and sometimes don’t seem enough–I want to be refined and transformed all at one, I do! But in His way and in His timing, I trust that the Lord is conforming me to His image: learning to speak the love language of a sister in Christ one day so I can reach her heart with His grace, increasing in boldness the next day so I can be a more effective witness for the Gospel of Christ, learning to honor Him in concrete actions such as what I eat and how I spend my time. It’s an ongoing process, and I seem to slip and stumble more often than I stand and walk, but in moments like those, I find that the Lord’s lovingkindness is new every morning. I love how Andrew Peterson expressed it in one of his songs: “I realize that falling down [isn’t] graceful, / But I thank the Lord that falling’s full of grace.” Oh, how great is His love!–greater than a multitude of our sins, of my frequent disobedience, of every slip and stumble I experience as I travel from the Palace Beautiful down into this beautified Valley of Humiliation…
But I am off the subject–and, unlike a post I penned a few weeks ago, this one does have a clear point and will hopefully make some semblance of sense once I’m done with it.
One thing the Lord has been convicting me to do: To spend more time resting in Him, reading His Word and learning His ways, and less time attempting to learn other things. Fewer memoirs and psychological textbooks (which, if you can believe it, I sometimes read for fun!) and word origins and histories of everything from ancient medicine to Laura Bridgman. Fewer of those, more of I and II Peter, Revelation, John, Hebrews, Ezekiel… Less wallowing in my own self-pity, more singing unto the Lord. Less time soliloquizing about my own problems, more time in prayer for others. “More of [Him], and less of me”. (Go find that song by Don Moen–please?)
The Lord has further convicted me personally that part of this means giving Him a day of worship each week. Because the early Christians seem to have met together on Sunday (see I Corinthians 16:2), I’ve chosen to give Him my Sundays. Now, please keep in mind that I’m speaking only of me–I’m not trying to tell you what to do in your own lives, but to discuss how one child of God has been blessed and touched, in hopes that some of it might bless and encourage others. Show, don’t tell; use personal experience rather than entreaty; pathos, not logos… [Insert your own literary, philosophical, or critical-thinking cliché/word of wisdom here.]
So, back to Sunday. For all I seem to spend most of my time on this blog and/or doing volunteer work, many of my readers are probably scratching their heads, wondering what I could possibly need to rest from–what “work” I would need to postpone. Ah, but all of life sometimes feels like work to me. Exercise constitutes work–both physical and emotional exertion–because my heart processes in such a way as to render the activity quite legalistic unless I’m constantly on-guard against that mindset. Working with my guide-dog requires a good deal of concentration and is a bit like driving. So, no “driving” on Sunday, and no treadmill, ab-lounge, or brisk winter stroll unless said stroll is designed for the express purpose of glorifying God. That, and no running errands with the obvious exception of church attendance. Loving on my guide-dog, and demonstrating love to family, will always be permitted–though doing an extensive project that requires mental effort may not. Worship-writing is more than permissible, especially since I don’t have a platform to speak of Him–which is something that was always permitted on days of rest throughout Scripture. However, the volunteer proofreading I do must be carefully evaluated to determine whether the material I’m working with will truly glorify God–“Oh, be careful little intellect what you read!” Then, too, there’s the necessity of gently admonishing myself, “Child of God, you will rest from all anxiety, fear, pain, anger, frustration, sorrow, mourning, grief, and if there be any other negative emotion…” The goal here is to delight myself in the Lord and to place myself–heart, mind, soul, and strength, in the loving hands of Jesus, ideally for the rest of my life, but especially on this newly-observed Sabbath.
Today was my first day of pursuing this new facet of holiness in absolute earnest. I approached it with caution–no, if I’m being honest with myself, I approached it with trepidation. What if I got caught up in something else? What if I simply didn’t, for some reason? What if I displeased Him? What if, despite all my flexible guidelines, I did something blatantly outside them? Was I even really interpreting God’s will on this matter correctly?
Oh, how the Lord takes our tiny mustard-seed of faith or obedience and causes it to grow! Today has been nothing but joyful, rewarding, glorious time in Jesus–like a fast, but without giving up food for the moment. God willing, that will come soon, for I’m longing for such a day. Like a fast, but also like a jubilee feast. Like Resurrection Day in my heart. Like pure, perfect revival. Like crystal-clear water and finest linen.
Did I really think it would be a sacrifice? Did I really believe that foregoing my work proofing a book by Nancy Rue would be all that difficult? Did I really, truly believe I would displease the Lord, or that I couldn’t give Him this day at all? I see now that I had these same feelings the first day I ever decided to seek the Lord with prayer and fasting, back in 2004. I didn’t know quite how to go about it, and I didn’t really have as much faith as I ought to have had that the Lord would use my moments of seeking Him. Then, He flooded that day with pure and perfect peace, and my prayers during that day were even answered–restoration and reconciliation where I thought none could ever exist again.
So, too, with today. I can’t say that anything in this day was extraordinary–but my heart was so filled with joy as to render everything glorious. A cherry-flavored Lara-Bar whose tartness reflected the conviction and urgency of the book I did proofread, THE CALLING by Brother Andrew. The sense of joy in serving others that pervaded my spirit as I wrote brothers and sisters in Christ–not to ask for prayer, but to attempt to pour encouragement into their lives. Worshiping Him with proverbial pen and paper as I described His manifest presence, or focused on His love and mercy. And all the while, the same thoughts kept flowing in and out of my every moment like a gentle worship ballad–healing and restoration, restoration and healing, the comforting power of the Holy Spirit. (He’s been laying Scriptures about healing on my heart lately–I don’t know why, but I praise Him for it.. Meanwhile, sipping the mocha drink that has always been associated with the awesome mercy of Jesus ever since I consumed the same beverage on the day when He gave me an allegory about His love–a tangible connection to that wondrous hour of three months ago. Songs and hymns and spiritual songs, intertwining to form what my sense of poetry insists on calling a musical prayer-cloth. “My Song Is Love Unknown”. “Will Your Anchor Hold You in the Flood”, “Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting”, a song about the Carpenter’s strong and loving hands, “In the Beauty of Holiness”… Oh, hallelujah! The love of Jesus, cleansing all the sorrow that had hitherto coated my being, replacing tears of pain with tears of joy. The joy that has come from this one day is absolute, unalloyed by external reservations or intimidation, and as precious as the joy I knew when I first received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Little things, like a sister in Christ promising to send me spiritually-encouraging material, filled me with more joy and hope than the same events would have had they taken place yesterday evening. Already, I’m planning my blog posts for Good Friday and Resurrection Day–a miracle of the heart, since my since of initiative and project-planning had long been crushed by circumstance. But now, now on this special Sabbath, I know what do do in celebrating the day of “HE IS RISEN!”. Knowing that the General Epistles and the book of Revelation await me is so marvelous that words cannot express it.
And all of this, on just one day. “In Your Presence, O God!”
I don’t know if I can express, either, what the Lord has done in this day. Somehow, a transformation has taken place–some broken fragment of my spiritual life has been restored entirely. I can’t explain how or what, but I do know that He has done a beautiful work, and that things are likely to be different now in the way I cling to Jesus Christ. Perhaps less fear and more trust. Less legalism. More freedom to be like Mary of Bethany–sitting at His feet like I’ve always loved to do, but without worrying about what the rest of society, whom I shall collectively refer to as Martha, will think of it all. And this, all in one little step of obedience. Our God is an awesome God!
Addendum: “Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting” is a full, rich hymn with ten thousand layers of meaning. The version on which this post is based, and the rendering you’re looking for, is by Grace Community Church. Their tune is reminiscent of still waters, while Keswick’s is more indicative of high mountaintops and the Father’s majesty–both beautiful themes, but not what I would use in an audible object lesson for this piece.