It was the very definition of a watershed moment, a dividing point from which things would never be the same.
On October 28, 2011, I shrugged a ratty old backpack onto my shoulders and set out on a trail called Rice Canyon north of Los Angeles. I had recently been exposed for the second time to the spiritual value of intentional rest, and my attempts to learn how to rest four years earlier had gotten no traction. Knowing there might not be a third chance, I was determined to carve Sabbath into my schedule. I knew that I wasn’t disciplined enough to rest at home, so stealing a page from Eugene Peterson’s book Working the Angles, I decided that my sabbath should be nature-oriented. For the first time, I went for a walk with God in the midst of His artistry. (The pictures are from that hike).
I had no idea what would happen. I had no idea that I was entering into a spiritual discipline that would quickly become the most life-giving I had ever encountered. I had no idea that it would lead to a blog, and a bit of amateur photography. I had no idea that my wife and I would eventually embrace a ministry, and buy a house, in order to encourage missionaries to learn how to rest.
Over the last eight years, I’ve read a LOT of other books on rest (The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan still being my favorite). I haven’t kept track, but it’s safe to say that there have been well over 300 Sabbath hikes, with an unknown number of Sabbath drives when health didn’t allow for a hike. Intentionally seeking long stretches of time to be alone with my Lord, in places that point me to Him, has taught me to enjoy His presence in ways that are transformational, and difficult to describe.
It would be impossible to summarize all that God has taught me (us, actually, since my wife has her own approach) in a short blog post. But here is a partial list:
- God’s creative activity was not complete until He had rested (Genesis 2:2).
- Jesus’ command “Come to me … and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28) is the only one of His commands that I’ve ever bragged about breaking.
- Leading God’s people to rest is one of the responsibilities of shepherding (Ezekiel 34:15), and you can’t take others where you have not been yourself.
- God’s nature and His attributes truly CAN be seen clearly through what He has made (Romans 1:20). In fact, they are vivid!
- There is a Pharisee in me who wants to make Sabbath all about rules, and a Task-master in me who is irritated when I’m not productive. I hate them both.
- If we can’t imagine Jesus saying “You’ve been busy. You’ve done enough for now. It’s time to rest” (Mark 6:31), our picture of Him is incomplete in a HUGELY significant way.
- Sabbath is not about prohibitions. It’s about liberation, freeing time to do what refreshes you and brings Him pleasure.
- Sometimes a Sabbath hike turns out to be more hike than Sabbath. That’s OK.
- Our heavenly Father, the Perfect Father, takes delight in spending time with His kids. Why wouldn’t He? And that delight is delightfully mutual.
Eight years down – how many more to go? That’s a mystery. But I’m looking forward to them. Because with the help of the One who rested, they will continue to be filled with regular, intentional, contemplative, Christ-centered rest. I wish you the same.