I’m finally starting to take after my favorite British veterinarian. That’s a sentence I never dreamed I would type, and a change that I never thought would happen. It’s one of the unexpected benefits of Sabbath, and I didn’t see it coming. It makes me smile.
Years ago, I fell in love with James Herriot’s account of his life as a rural vet in Yorkshire between the two World Wars (the most famous of his books is All Creatures Great and Small). I was amused by his description of the quirky folks he served, and fascinated by his healing skills while using relatively primitive tools. But that isn’t what really grabbed me.
What struck me most about this man was his eagerness to benefit from the natural beauty in which he worked. He would regularly stop to admire the countryside, to appreciate the fragrance of a fresh breeze off the moors, to relax in the grass on a beautiful Spring day. He knew how to stop, look, breathe, and revel in the beauty that surrounded him.
I admired him. And I was jealous of him. Because I wasn’t good at that.
I wanted to be good at it. I REALLY wanted to be good at it. But I didn’t know how to get there. I had important things to do, significant stuff, deadlines to honor (many of them, most of them, self-imposed), which meant that I had to use my time wisely and carefully, productively. Ah, yes, productively.
And occasionally, in the midst of all the busy-ness and stress, I would pick up a Herriot book. And I would yearn for the ability to slow down like him and notice the beauty around me. Maybe some day …
That day began without me realizing it. When I started to practice Sabbath in 2011, I began to develop what Mark Buchanan (in The Rest of God) calls a Sabbath heart. Setting aside a Sabbath day began to grow in me a Sabbath heart, which made me more aware of Sabbath moments throughout the week, which in turn prepared me for my next Sabbath day.
Almost four years later, I am starting to see the benefits (happily, my wife can vouch for that). I’m much more likely than I used to be to pull over and stop the car to admire a beautiful cloud formation in the Arizona sky. I’m much less likely to quote my old motto: “The fun doesn’t start until we get there.” I more often take the longer way home, because it’s prettier. I’ve been growing roses for years, but I now take special joy in their fragrance, in their arrangement, and I love to stop and admire rose gardens I may pass as I walk around town. A beautiful sunset can stop me in my tracks, and give me goosebumps. A hike in the rain, the patter of the raindrops and the fragrance of the moist earth, can put a smile on my face for days.
I can nod my head in ways I couldn’t before when I read in Romans 1:20 that there is truth about God embedded in His creation, “being understood through what has been made.” His fingerprints on His creation reveal truth about Him. I love discovering those buried treasures.
I’m not done yet – far from it. In many ways I’ve just begun. But I’m glad for the change, and I’m eager for more.
I want a Sabbath heart to continue to grow in me, so I can seize the Sabbath moments that come my way. I’d be grateful for your prayers in that direction, and glad if you were to join me on that path.
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