The Way of Love Bible Challenge, a new release published by Forward Movement, features 50 days of Bible readings and reflections that highlight the seven core spiritual practices of the Way of Love: Turn, Learn, Pray, Worship, Bless, Go and Rest. The following meditations are two excerpts from the “Rest” section of this inspirational new resource.
If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. Isaiah 58:13-14
The Way of Love practice that I have the hardest time following is rest. I’m not talking about the rest of taking a nap or binge-watching my favorite show, but the true, restorative rest that God demands we offer one day a week, where we devote time to spiritual pursuits. Laundry, I guarantee you, is not a spiritual pursuit, no matter how you try to dress it up. Remembering the sabbath is the fourth commandment – and the only commandment that I believe we break consistently and with pride.
Our culture is in a place where we honor busyness. We celebrate our overcommitted schedules, our burgeoning calendars, our inability to get everything done. We pack ourselves tight along with our children and our parents and call it a life well lived. Following the Way of Love reminds us that there is a different path we can take. Isaiah makes clear what happens when we follow our own interests and pursue our own affairs: We trample the sabbath, and we do not honor God with our actions.
With my feet firmly planted in midlife, with aging children on one side and aging and dying parents on the other, I need to acknowledge that rest is what God demands of me – of all of us – and what we must demand of ourselves. No matter how significant our work, no matter how important our child’s dance practice, no matter how serious our parent’s doctor’s visit, we must restore our hearts and minds so that we can live fully into a God-filled existence.
When we genuinely rest, we do as God does. When we rest, we give ourselves time to follow all of the other practices of the Way of Love. As these are daily practices, we should allocate some time every day for restoration. On our sabbath day, we should aspire to give the entire day to God. As long as we’re doing something as radical as following Jesus, why not go even further and do whatever it takes to have a holy sabbath?
Miriam Willard McKenney
Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest is still open, let us take care that none of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For indeed the good news came to us just as to them; but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, “As in my anger I swore, ‘They shall not enter my rest,’” though his works were finished at the foundation of the world. For in one place it speaks about the seventh day as follows, “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.”
And again in this place it says, “They shall not enter my rest.” Since therefore it remains open for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he sets a certain day – “today” – saying through David much later, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not speak later about another day. So then, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God; for those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labors as God did from his. Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall through such disobedience as theirs.
Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account. Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:1-16
A normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute. Many factors can influence heart rate, including age, fitness, emotions, medications, and more.
But what about a “resting soul rate?” What would that look like? What if we could measure our souls’ rest?
Medical science tells us that our bodies need rest in order to thrive, and this passage from Hebrews tells us that to thrive in the Christian life, we need rest—and not physical rest but soul rest, God’s rest.
So, how does God rest? According to Genesis 2, God looks back at what has been done, calls it good, blesses the work, and then pauses for restoration, ceasing from all productivity.
Noticing. Appreciating. Blessing. Pausing. Restorating. Savoring. These are the markers of what God’s rest looks like. Are they the markers of our practice of rest? If not, what are the consequences?
When I am bone tired, in body and soul, I am less likely to have the margin to notice the beauty around me. When I am frazzled and worn down, what are the chances I will be able to see all that I have accomplished over the week and call it good instead of what I usually call it: not enough?
Like sleep-deprived toddlers unable to choose between chicken nuggets and a grilled cheese sandwich, when our bodies and our souls are not rested, we are often reduced to our least-healthy selves. We are more likely to be snappy, impatient, ungrateful, and unwelcoming.
We are disobedient to the commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves, disobedient to the charges to be patient, generous, long-suffering, forgiving, and humble.
My prayer is that we can begin to see rest as an act of obedience instead of weakness, that we will make time to practice noticing, appreciating, blessing, pausing, restoring, and savoring so that we might live healthy lives as Christ followers.
Staff Officer for Evangelism
The Episcopal Church
Excerpts from The Way of Love Bible Challenge, published by Forward Movement. Visit www.forwardmovement.org to learn more.