I sat at my desk at work crying this week. There. I said it. I’m a guy…crying. In fact, I slumped below my screen so people walking by couldn’t see me. The fact that this is going out to the “Internets” to be read is a bit too uncomfortable to think about, so I’m just pretending that I’m writing this in my journal for now. Maybe I’ll press “Publish.” Maybe not. My only comfort is that there are only 3 of you who read this stuff anyway. And I’m not a “crier.” It takes me a long time to get to this place because I’m a type-A hard worker who likes to get things done and I have plans, checklists, and strategies for everything. Feeling frustrated and helpless is not in my “wheelhouse.” And that’s part of why I was crying.
Listen, I’m not in crisis. This has been a very good season for me. My wife and I are finally coming out of a long stint in the desert. We were in a tough spot for months and months. Life just happens sometimes and you just get beat up and left in a ditch for a while wondering why you are wounded. By God’s grace, we have turned a corner and have come out into wide, open, well-watered spaces for now. So I wasn’t crying because life is falling apart. Our marriage is great, rich, strong, and “oneness” is happening more and more each day. Our homegroup is good – huge, but good. Our friendships are solid, jobs are going well, future jobs are developing and growing, house is standing, dogs are happy, and on and on.
Here’s the thing, though – I’m exhausted. Not so much physically, but spiritually and emotionally. I spent a good portion of January praying and seeking the Lord, pursuing Him, listening to Him, hearing from Him, and waiting on Him. And boy, did He show up with some answers. Dreams, visions, friends confirming, prayers confirmed, answers, and the lot. And we just sat back in awe in wonder. The next step I took, unfortunately, led me eventually to crying and feeling overwhelmed at my desk. I have been so excited about all God did in January that I forgot I needed Him. I grabbed all the “stuff” and “answers” He gave us and ran with it, put plans together, identified next steps, found resources, found people and processes…. Meanwhile, I ceased to pray and seek the Lord for help, guidance, provision, and strength to do the things He’s called me to and provided for. Getting ahead of God is never a smart thing, but taking God’s grace and direction without taking God is deadly. I’ve lost sight of the Gospel, and instead became a glory-thief, attempting to take what God gave me and do it without Him.
This may not immediately make sense as a transition, but God has been gracious to show me something – I’ve stopped having Sabbath rests. I have failed to realize that Sabbaths are commanded, that rest is commanded, and that God has so woven the Sabbath into the human heart that my body will tell me when I’m running on fumes even if my mind will not. So I can run, organize, and equip, work and go, go, go with things, time, people, requirements, and stupid distractions…but there is one day out of every 7 that requires me to stop, rest, listen, and dwell, one day that is given to me as a gift, even though I didn’t ask for it and didn’t think I needed it. There is one day that must be more concerned with space, eternity, depth, and the Gospel than the other six days, one day God blesses and calls “holy.” This gift is the Sabbath rest.
Now, every day requires the Gospel. Every day needs prayer, reading the Word, listening to God, and pursuing Jesus. Every day is sacred and every moment requires the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus to keep me from destroying myself. But only one day is named by God as “holy.” God, as He was setting the world and universe into motion, wove into the very fabric of creation the idea of a Sabbath rest. God Himself modeled this as He rested from His work in Genesis 1. And more importantly, Jesus is my Sabbath rest. In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” I need Him. I was made for Him. A day does not save us – Jesus does. One day when we all get to heaven, it will only be Sabbath rest. But because we are in the “already, not yet,” we still have this shadow of the Sabbath day (Colossians 2:16-17).
Abraham Joshua Heschel was a Polish-born American rabbi and one of the leading Jewish theologians and philosophers of the 20th century. He was living and teaching in Germany during the lead up to WWII, and was smuggled out of Germany before war broke out. He wrote, among many great books, one book titled The Sabbath. In it, he has many profound and deeply stirring thoughts that strike at the chord of the Gospel of Jesus, though Heschel never converted to Christianity. I think it shows the deep connection between the traditional Hebraic “Sabbath” and Jesus Himself, the “Lord of the Sabbath.” Hechel says,
“Is the joy of possession an antidote to the terror of time which grows to be a dread of inevitable death? ‘Things,’ when magnified, are forgeries of happiness, they are a threat to our very lives….The higher goal of spiritual living is not to amass a wealth of information, but to face sacred moments.” (The Sabbath, page 6)
“Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul.” (The Sabbath, page 13)
“Labor is a craft, but perfect rest is an art.” (The Sabbath, page 14)
“The seventh day is a palace in time…. It is made of soul, of joy, and reticence. In its atmosphere, a disciple is reminded of their adjacency to eternity.” (The Sabbath, page 15)
I have to believe that God knows what I need more than I do. What do you do when you are not being watered? Sabbath. Rest. Even if I fail to observe or celebrate the Sabbath, it remains holy. Even when I fail to rest in Jesus and dwell in His presence, He remains all-together lovely, all-together worthy, all-together wonderful. It begins with a sense of longing – longing to know and love God more deeply.
So this past week, I took a friend dinner, then I got home, dimmed the lights, turned on some Thomas Tallis, broke open a bottle of good wine, walked outside to watch the sun set with my wife, and ate a great meal with my wife slowly, quietly, and restfully. We asked God to bless the wine and the food, we talked about Jesus, remembered how we are the “aroma” of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14-16) and thanked Him with every beef-filled bite. I had a Sabbath night, and though it was not a full 24 hours (that will happen this weekend), it is a step in the right direction. And this time that was set aside to rest and seek and see the wild discrepancy between the “already” and the “not yet” birthed in me joy, godly sorrow, Christ-filled rest, and a deep desire for Jesus’ return and glory. God met us with arms full of rest and peace.
Seek Him and He will be found.