By: Katie Choi
Liturgy of the Ordinary is a book by Tish Harrison Warren. I read it last year. It was well-timed as I was in a position to really receive the message in relation to some other things that had been on my heart. The back cover describes the book in this way, “Each chapter in this book looks at something that the author does during the day – making the bed, brushing her teeth, losing her keys. Life is viewed through the lens of liturgy – small practices and habits that form us.” The final chapter is on Sleeping: Sabbath, Rest, and the Work of God. Sabbath. That word had been recently been presented to me by someone who was offering me advice on how to structure my week. They asked if I practiced a weekly Sabbath, and I said no. They urged me to carve out space for that: a time for just me to be with God. “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy” is one of the ten commandments and it’s where my mind goes anytime someone mentions the word Sabbath. To me, it felt like something from another time where many other laws of Old Testament were followed that we no longer practice today. Exodus 20:8-11 tells us this, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
So in reading Liturgy of the Ordinary and listening to my friend, it has only been recently that this idea of a Sabbath has been presented to me as simply personal time between me and God. Not only as a way not to do work or go to church, but as a way to reset and recharge and spend intimate time with my Creator. And to practice the now radical idea…rest.
Warren, ever the deliverer of eloquent simplicity, describes this idea in her book in several ways, “It took me years to realize that our time of gathered worship on Sunday morning and our Sunday afternoon naps are interrelated. Rest is not simply a physical need – it is not only our brains and muscles and eyelids that must learn habits of rest. We need holistic rest – physical psychological, and spiritual. Worship and bodily rest are wrapped up together.” She also writes that, “Rest takes practice…If rest is learned through habit and repetition, so is restlessness. These habits of rest or restlessness form in us over time.”
I mentioned last week that we will try to use Fridays to introduce some thoughts on ways that we can continue community at home. So it might feel strange to present an idea that is so self-focused and individual. But I believe to love others well, we also have to love ourselves well. If the latter doesn’t exist, loving others feels all the more challenging. I wrote a devotion a few weeks ago, and in prepping for that, I was looking at the Advent study I did in December of 2019. In one of the sections I had some self-reflection, I wrote “SABBATH = 2020, Lord, give me direction and purpose in this.” I had forgotten, but as our team was brainstorming this idea of community at home, Sabbath came up, and I thought of that little note. It felt very timely, and many of us are finding our time looks very different lately so I thought we could explore this together.
My challenge for myself for the next few weeks is to create space for this. I am not sure why it feels hard to come up with an idea for what this looks like so I think I am going to go about it in a few ways. For me, I am going to take walks and give thanks for being outside. I am going to sit quietly, without my phone. I will continue to pray, but I will also leave room for God to lead me and my heart–I’m going to listen. What will you try? Maybe you will meditate or practice yoga. Maybe you will give praise with a worship session in your living room or listen to music as you reflect. I asked a few of my friends to help me out with this by giving me examples of what Sabbath looks like in their life or barriers that get in the way if they don’t practice this regularly. Their lives all look different. It seems like most people I asked, aside from one, struggle with this in a steady, habitual sense, much like I do. My wise, kind friend Stan sent me some great stuff. He sent me a lengthy answer that felt so encouraging. Here is some wisdom he shares that is true for him as he practices Sabbath, “In a sense, we try to make this one day [Sunday] a focus on who we are spiritually, physically, and as a family. I can honestly say I look forward to the reset that occurs each Sunday as we get ready to head back into another work week! Sunday’s make the most sense for us but I don’t think that Sunday has to be that “magical” day of the week. It just works well for our family!” That certainly feels attainable, and to me, that feels so much simpler than the complicated things I like to make up in my head concerning Sabbath. He was also reassured me that he didn’t start out here, and that for him, it has changed over the years. I take comfort in that.
I also take comfort in a couple verses. One is Hebrews 4:9-10, “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.” And another from Leviticus 26:2, “Observe my Sabbaths and have reverence for my sanctuary. I am the Lord.” I would love to find reverence in this sort of sanctuary right now. Wouldn’t you? I am praying with you and for you and wishing you all peace.