Saturday, June 7, 2014

of Bill Murray and keeping Sabbath {an unsolicited book review}

I recently finished reading one of the most restful books I’ve ever read.  It is, coincidentally, a book on the spiritual discipline of Sabbath; but whereas many “Christian” books leave my recovering-perfectionist-self feeling guilty and depressed about all the spiritual disciplines I’m not practicing or the good, Biblical things I’m not doing, this book left me feeling refreshed.  Life-filled.  Invited.  Excited about unwrapping the gift of Sabbath in my own life.  

Mark Buchanan’s The Rest of God is a beautiful and, for me, timely invitation to explore the Biblical command to keep Sabbath rest.  His pithy, insightful writing opened my spiritual eyes to see how keeping Sabbath and developing a Sabbath heart enables us to discover not just actual rest, but the rest of God - the things of God’s nature and presence we miss in our busyness.

“In a culture where busyness is a fetish and stillness is laziness, rest is sloth,” Buchanan muses.  

“But without rest,” he continues, “we miss the rest of God: the rest he invites us to enter more fully so that we might know him more deeply.  ‘Be still and know that I am God.’  Some knowing is never pursued, only received.  And for that, you need to be still” (p3).

Being still has never been easy for me.  I like to be doing, getting things done.  I tend to measure the “success” of my day by how many items I’ve ticked off my to-do list.  I struggle to live in the moment and I often resent interruptions.  I find it difficult to lay down my task and look the person full in the face.  

So this book was a much-needed breath of fresh air (and a kick in the pants) to show me how crucial Sabbath is to healthy, Biblical living.  And how much more expansive our potential for true productivity becomes when we joyfully keep Sabbath.  

One of the things that struck me was Buchanan’s differentiation between drivenness and purposefulness.  

He noticed that “the truly purposeful have an ironic secret: they manage time less and pay attention more” (78).  

He follows this up with an invitation to live generously.  Buchanan says that you actually generate “more” time by extravagantly giving your whole self, and all of “your” time, first to God and then to others.  

I wonder... is this really true?

Can I really generate “more” time by extravagantly giving time away?

Giving my time away definitely doesn’t come naturally to me.  I like to hang on to my time, count the seconds, hoard the minutes, and frugally dole out my hours.  The trouble with that approach is (hoarse stage whisper) - “It’s not really mine!”

If my time is not really mine, why do I hang on to it so tightly?  

Sabbath is about trust, Buchanan points out.  “[It] is turning over to God all those things—our money, our work, our status, our reputations, our plans, our projects—that we’re otherwise tempted to hold tight in our own closed fists, hold on to for dear life.” 

Oh yes.  I like hanging on for dear life.  It feels comforting to me.  Secure.  The trouble is, it’s exhausting! 

Buchanan continues, “[Sabbath] is letting go, for one day out of seven, all those parts of our identities and abilities in which we are constantly tempted to find our security, and discovering afresh that we are his children and that he is our Father and shield and defender” (98).

Is any of this hitting home for you like it did for me?  Doesn’t the idea of Sabbath sound delightful?  Just imagine: we’re offered - by God - 24 hours out of each week to take a break from our worries, our insecurities, and our drivenness, and just bounce joyously on the trampoline of the Everlasting Arms for a while?

In one of my favorite movies, “What About Bob”, Bill Murray plays a neurotic hypochondriac who relies on his psychologist for sanity and reassurance.  After Bob compulsively follows his psychologist and his family on vacation, turning up unexpectedly at the door of their cabin getaway, the irritated psychologist finally comes up with a way to get Bob to leave him alone: he tells Bob to take a vacation from his problems.  

“A vacation?” Bob is incredulous.  “From my… problems?”  A look of sheer joy spreads over his face, as the suggestion sinks in.  “Hah!  A vacation!  From my - problems!!”  He backs away happily, hands in pockets, and strolls off whistling. 

Dr. Marvin is overjoyed that his brainstorm worked so well and settles in to enjoy his family vacation - until Bob shows up bright and early at his screen door the next morning wearing a local t-shirt, and announces, “Good morning, Doctor!”  The speechless psychologist quickly pulls him around the corner and demands in a frantic whisper, “What are you doing here?”

Bob happily replies, “I’m on vacation! I’m just dropping by!  How are you, Doctor?”  

Flabbergasted at how his plan has backfired, Dr. Marvin proceeds to concoct a series of elaborate plans for getting rid of Bob, while his family gradually falls in love with Bob - who, on vacation from his problems, turns out to be a normal, likable guy.  

That’s what I want to do, once a week.  (Or every day?)  Take a vacation from my problems, and live in the realization that I am free from the power of sin over my life, and I have been invited into the rest of God.  

What about you?  Do you need a vacation from your problems?  Aren't you curious about the rest of God?

Stay tuned for more thoughts on Sabbath rest, coming soon… 


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