This last week has been pretty crazy. Because of a weekend retreat, a Missions class and a leadership conference in Haiti, I spoke 11 times, in 8 days, in 3 cities, in 2 languages. And along the way I discovered a noticeable, but previously unnoticed, benefit of Sabbath rest.
Prior to becoming a Sabbath-keeper, I would have approached this kind of a schedule by just gutting it out, doing my best and probably collapsing afterwards. I would have taken a “paper airplane” approach, launching myself into it as best I could, trying to stay aloft as long as possible, hurriedly praying that I would catch an updraft or two along the way, and eventually coming back to earth to a hopefully gentle landing. To be honest, the landings weren’t always gentle.
Sabbath has changed that. After the weekend retreat, and before the Missions class and my departure for Haiti on Monday night, I took a Sabbath hike that I found to be especially refreshing. It became an oasis in the middle of the craziness, a refreshing chance to “breath in” (the meaning of the word “inspire”) while I was in the midst of giving out. The beauty of the creek and the mountains, the power of the worship songs, the extended prayer connection with God, all combined to charge my batteries in a way that I badly needed. It was, in a word, delightful.
I discovered this week the benefits of laying aside the “paper airplane” strategy in favor of a “bicycle tire” approach to my life. The spokes of a bicycle tire move to the center at regular intervals. In the same way, regular Sabbath rest takes me back to my center on a weekly basis. It brings me back to my love for Christ, my awe of Him, my amazement at being the object of His affection and His grace. It reminds me that it is a privilege to serve Him, even when that service gets a little insane. And it recharges me with the energy I need to not just get by and collapse afterwards, but to thrive. The week was physically depleting, but I’m not feeling the spiritual “hangover” that often followed such a schedule in the past.
My experience showed the truth of what Mark Buchanan says in The Rest of God, in a passage I read as part of an abbreviated Sabbath rest time this afternoon: “The rest of God…is not a reward for finishing. It’s not a bonus for work well done. It is a stop-work order in the midst of work that is never complete, never polished…It’s the rest we take smack dab in the middle of (our obligations), without apology, without guilt, and for no better reason than God told us we could.” (p. 93)
As an added benefit, it should be pointed out that bicycle tires tend to go further than paper airplanes, and crash much less often. 🙂 I’ll be eager to see in coming years how much further I can go, and how much more stable my life and ministry will be, with regular returns to the center. And I hope that you’re at least a little bit curious to see how those bicycle spokes could play out in your own life.