Contemplative Life

Shifting Sabbath: How Our Rhythms of Rest Can (and Should) Change

The idea of Sabbath is as old as Creation, when God took the seventh day to rest (Genesis 2:1-3).  In Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 10, we find that everyone in the household, even little ones, observes the Sabbath.  God’s call to regular rest even extended to the farm animals!  This idea of rhythmic rest and retreat is mentioned over and over through the Old Testament, and Jesus’ life also frequently models this rhythm as well.

And yet, resistance to rest is as old as the fall.  In Amos 8:4-5 we hear the admonishment against those who would complain, When will the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat? That complaint feels very familiar to me. 

These days, we see articles and books and podcasts all echoing the refrain– rest is under attack.  Even if we embrace secular culture’s riffs on Sabbath with “self-care Sundays” and a lot more talk about “taking time for myself,” true rest eludes us.  One possible reason for this could be that what might be rest one day, might transform into toil the next.  

For me, I love gathering people together to do fun things.  And the opportunity to pull together a fun experience for people can be very relaxing and restful.  And then there are other times when it feels onerous.  That’s when I know that I need to change my pattern of rest because where I’m trying to find it isn’t where it truly lies.  Rest can be energetic and playful, and rest can be quiet and sombre.  And it can be those things at different times for the same person.  Changing our rhythms of rest, and making sure that what we are doing to find rest is actually restful is one of the best ways we can protect the command for remembering the Sabbath.

Rest isn’t always about disconnection either; sometimes it is about reconnection.  We’ve all learned over our pandemic experiences that isolation can be completely draining in overwhelming amounts, even for the most introverted of people.  The same is true with Sabbath.  Of course the graces of rest can be felt when Sabbath is practiced on an individual level.  But when we think of Sabbath rest as providing the opportunity for reconnection and fellowship, we find the graces of the Sabbath– time and space to know and be known, to create, to savor– ripple out into the neighborhood.  This is especially true when a community practices Sabbath together.

The psalmist says, “Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.”* We have to pay good attention and be listening so we can follow where God may be leading us to rest.  And we have to allow ourselves a moment or two even to be able to do that listening, which doesn’t count as the rest!  More than anything, the beginning of rest is the creation of more margin than a few stolen minutes here or there, which are barely enough to survive our overscheduled lives.

We all need opportunities to change up our rhythms.  If you and your people would like a place and some space to try out a few different ways of experiencing rest, I’d suggest a drive out to the Shenandoah Valley for starters.  At Corhaven on July 31st, we’re offering an open, casual evening for people of all ages to experiment with the grace of reconnecting in community and to rest well amidst God’s beautiful creation.  We will provide guides to help explore the various opportunities for rest on the property, including berry picking, fire pit conversations, poetry books, art supplies, journals, places both to sit quietly and to explore, and more.

We hope you’ll shake up your Sabbath rest routine with us on the 31st!  There’s a lot more to do in the Shenandoah Valley as well if you are able to extend your time– fishing, hiking, biking, rafting, sipping, savoring, and abundant other ways to enjoy God’s good gifts to us in many forms.  

We hope you will find spacious margin and good rest this summer, whatever form it takes, and we hope that we can help you explore different ways that might be possible for you too!  Blessings on your journeys and wherever rest may find you in the coming weeks. 

*A nice setting of this Psalm by the Robbie Seay Band from their Psalms LP

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