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Sabbath - In praise of slowness

I've had a bunch of great conversations with people over the last couple of weeks in which we have looked at this idea of Sabbath. One day a week where we just have a blast doing things that feed our soul and replenish us. Its scary how many people crank it seven days a week. Its scary how many Christian leaders are some of the worst at pushing it too hard. Personally, I am completely over having a reputation as a busy person. The word busy has become one of the most insulting things I could be called - I cringe a little every time someone says "be cool to catch up - i know your busy so just whenever". And so Ive made lots of little changes in the last couple of months that have helped enormously, and while I still feel it is very early days on this whole thing, it is incredibly life giving and its flippin nice to have a day where I enjoy doing jack tweety. The picture on the right is from a walk a did on my day off two weeks ago. Last week me and my bro took the boat out and tried to kill some fish. Today its another long walk.

Two bits of media that I have found helpful. One is this talk from Carl Honore at the brilliant TED conferences on the power called "In praise of Slowness".

And I have just transcribed an interview with Rob Bell that I thought was brilliant. Its from the catalyst podcast so have a listen for yourself or just read it below. They prattle on for a while but the Sabbath yarn is at the 11:45 mark.

Interviewer: What should the sabbath look like for me, three children living in suburban atlanta, busy life, blackberry, laptop, that whole deal?

Any time legalism enters, where it has to be “this day or that day” you are gone from the get go, its not going to work. It’s a gift. So at any point when you think "Ive got to do it or im in trouble" then you have missed the gift.
Abraham Joshua Heschel says “Sabbath gives the world the energy it needs to exist for another six days”.
Really practical questions are; What day of the week do you turn your blackberry off? What day of the week do you do no email? What is the day of the week that you do not create, do not produce anything? When you work is to simply be?
I don’t think that the human soul can survive – I mean a person may still live, -but their soul will be dying.
So Saturday for our family (because I have a little gig on Sundays), we have a Sabbath… once in a while I will do something for someone, but for my wife its “no lists”. For me its generally centres around not creating anything new, so we do whatever we want. We have a blast. Our boys know that we are going to play. We make waffles in the morning, we are going to jump on the trampoline, we are going to do whatever.
I need it. Sometimes I will literally sit in a chair on the Sabbath and say to God, “God some things broke this week, some things were torn apart, I took some hits, I have some bruises and I need you to put it back together”.
This is full scale rebellion against western American culture which bows down at the altar of nexto, which says get it done. Sabbath says don’t get it done. Sabbath is out gift for leaving Egypt where out worth came from the amount of bricks we produced. And the slave master says your worth come from the amount of bricks you produce. And if you don’t produce enough bricks for pharoh, then you are killed. Because you have no worth apart from the bricks.
Sabbath was a day a week we you are going to learn about what it means to be loved simply because of who you are not because of what you produce.
For me it’s the health and survival of our soul.
You also have to be preparing for it all week. The jews on Sabbath eve will invite the spirit of Sabbath in. If you are going to take a day a week to remind yourself that God loves you just the way you are then it affects the other day.
I would say that the Sabbath leaks – it leaks and it bleeds. Literally the first couple of years that my wife and I tried to practice Sabbath, we would have a full scale depression by Saturday afternoon. I realised after much reflection and counselling that my body was physiologically addicted to the adrenaline hit, to going on to the next thing. I was terrified of silence because my body did not know how to deal with it.
So people try and pray or try and reflect or try and take a Sabbath. And they think that they are not a good Christian, that they don’t love God. No. This may have very real chemical issues in your body. Where your body is used to firing a certain way.
For example prayer – people say “I can only pray for 5 minutes and then I get distracted”. Well yes that could have deep issues of commitment to God but on a very real level it could be because your brain is used to be in a hundred different places that when you ask your brain to be in one place for an extended period of time it doesn’t know how to do this. So it taken my wife and I several years to have a Sabbath and not by Saturday afternoon at four pm bang my head against the wall.
Interviewer: So you look forward to it now?
Oh man, Yeah, its changed my whole life actually.

“Sabbath - In praise of slowness”

  1. Blogger Sam Says:

    Awesome. This is very cool. Thanks heaps for taking the time to write that out.

  2. Anonymous Kiri Says:

    Sheesh, this Sabbath talk is coming up a lot, aye? I'll be the first to admit that the Sabbath hasn't exactly had much place in my life lately, but I only have myself to blame for that... that whole "in my own strength" stuff.

    However, it's interesting to see where the 'winter blues' comes from with regard to this. I read somewhere the other day (can't remember where, my lecturer would mark me down for that) that Auckland hasn't had a weekend without rain since May. Eek! I don't think Wellington has been much better, either. For those of us who work the traditional Monday to Friday week (i.e. those not in full time ministry!) this can make the Sabbath difficult. Yeah sure, you can kick back and do nothing at home but after a while a sense of cabin fever has to kick in, especially for those of us who find this sense of rest by being surrounded by what has already been created and which represents so much growth and creativity - the great outdoors. So our chance to "have a blast doing things that feed our soul and replenish us" is so much more restricted, leaving us all grumpy, moody, miserable and drained - winter blues. Bring on summer.

  3. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    Sabbath...no body I know talks about it. This year Ive given it a chance to work on me. Going to the farmers market, doing walks, the beach, reading, finding space, leaving my phone and mac turned off. I've found that through this I've started to experience and find different rhythms of God, seeing a new picture of Jesus, REST! And freedom from false self. "no your not a 24 7 robot that just happens to have faith attached" your human, and you need to find rest to be renewed for new creativity to emerge, which hss turned out to be my True Self.

  4. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    When God commanded us to keep the Sabbath holy, it was fourth on the list. It also has four verses to explain why and how you should keep it holy, no other commandment is as long as this one, does that mean we should take another look at why God would spend so much time writing it?

    Thanks Sam for bringing it up, life is way too busy and I think we create all this busyness because if we really just stop and be... maybe then we will find ourselves either haunted by our extreme loneliness and a withered up soul, or in the presence of God. Both can be a scary option if we are not in right relationship with the Creator.

    Our soul is the only thing we can take into eternity, how healthy and rested is it? Have we even taken the time to get to know our own soul and what it loves, or do we just drag it along behind our "must achieve more" mentality???

    Something to think about... Myself included!