The other day I went to pick the kids up from school. There’s a one-way system and first I pick up Allegra who has just started full time school in reception. Within seconds of collecting her she was in an unexplainable and quite impressive fury at me because she had taken a piece of artwork out of her bag to show me and had then torn it.
I tried speaking logic to her, explaining I would fix it but I had no glue on me and couldn’t do it then and there – and more to the point, there were parents waiting behind me in the socially distanced one way queue waiting to collect their own children and we needed to move on… Anyone who has met my daughter – or any average 4 year old will guess that logic didn’t get me far!
Somehow, we got round and picked up Zion – who was equally confused as I was at the anger radiating out of his sister towards us.
I realised we somehow needed to power off and restart to resolve the problem. And so, I embraced my decision – and resolutely told them we weren’t going home to our normal routine of tidying away, homework, TV, food prep, clothes washing etc.
Instead we were walking a longer route, through the Newhall Valley. A few minutes later I was unsure of my decision as we battled through the crowds of kids and parents coming from the other two schools nearby – Zion even asked me – why did you bring us this way when you knew we’d have to get passed all of these people going the other way?!
But immediately we got off the crowded streets our pace changed. We stopped and put all our bags down – Zion found a few stones – Allegra took a toy out that she’d squirrelled away in her coat that morning without me realising.
After a while we walked on a bit further – then we stopped and listened to the noise the water in the stream makes… and admired how it was peaceful. We each found a few sticks and played pooh sticks on a bridge. Then we happened upon some blackberries, ate a few each and wandered on. Then Allegra noticed a rose-hip bush and went over to see if they were ripe yet – last time we’d walked this way they hadn’t been – they were – so great sticky delight was had in picking and eating them.
We saw a different path we’d never taken and decided to go that way – no rush to get home. Instead we had places to explore and creation to delight in – I sat and read a bit of a book till Allegra came to sit with me – so we chatted, played a game, acted silly and laughed.
Her dark mood had lifted…
We’d ceased, interrupted our daily rhythm of go, go, go.
We’d rested – physically sat down, emotionally let go of the things that were worrying us, let the stream’s water bring peace…
To do this we’d had to make an intentional choice to embrace an alternative direction, to literally go against the flow of people…
And then we’d feasted – on the beauty in nature, the food found in the blackberry and rosehip bushes, in each other’s company, on the joy that comes from playing and fun when there’s no rush to be anywhere, no to do list hanging over us…
And all of this brought us together, it healed the anger and the frustrations, it brought life, and a change of perspective.
We went home and did all that we would normally do – but our mini-Sabbath affected how we went about doing it.
If this hour-long detour made this difference in our day – imagine how a whole day each week of putting these four things (ceasing, resting, embracing and feasting) into practice would transform our lives and how we would then go about doing all that we do on the other six days!
We’ll all have different things and ways of doing Sabbath that work for – but I think John Mark Comer has a good test for whether something is a worthy thing to include in your Sabbath practice, two questions:
1) Is this rest?
2) Is this worship?
If it helps us to reset and rest our minds, bodies and souls – and to turn them instead towards loving God then it’s a good Sabbath activity.
It won’t always go smoothly, it can be hard initially to get into the groove – it feels odd to change our rhythm after years of practicing a different one. But this is God’s good, life-giving gift to us.
Marva Dawn writes:
“When the Sabbath is finally fulfilled, our divisions and weaknesses will cease forever. We will rest eternally in God’s grace and love. We will embrace his kingdom and sovereignty ultimately and perfectly. We will feast unceasingly in his presence.”
May we be a people that savour the foretaste of God’s kingdom here on earth as we embrace God’s gift of the Sabbath in our lives – and may the fruit of our restful, life-giving celebration overflow and bless those in the world around us.