This is a practical article. If you stick with your initial effort and persist to the end, you won’t be disappointed, finding two…yes, two…straight-forward helps in setting rhythms that allow you to collaborate with the Spirit in your own spiritual formation in the ordinary routines of life.
But before we jump to the pragmatics, I need to make a statement, that seems like common sense yet is commonly circumvented by my generation, and a brief clarification that may seem rather novel to our cultural patterns of thought and behavior but is actually prehistoric in practice.
First, there are no shortcuts in spiritual formation. Whether we are seeking for the first time or with a renewed vigor born from desperation or rapture; the God-graced daily rhythm of being in his Word is indispensable to becoming one fully aware and participatory in His kingdom come. Not to mention able to stand firm, clad in His armor, amid the very forces that have compelled us to seek His way over another’s.
The longest of our psalms (number 119) is solely dedicated to the beauty and absolute necessity of the Word of the Lord in every moment of our waking and dreaming. It is only through many a day having our minds and hearts meditate on His law, and many a midnight spent arisen to praise because of His righteous rules, that we will one day find ourselves fully alive in the midst of daily deaths with un-anxious actions and unshakable clarity.
There may be no shortcuts in spiritual formation, but the circadian cycle of immersion in God’s word is not the only God-created rhythm for forming our lives. Along with the rising of the morning and setting of the evening, there also came into being in the good of first sequencing: The Sabbath.
So as not to lose one another in all the possible images that the word Sabbath evokes, it might be helpful to clarify the basic premise of this organic order. Pastor and author, Eugene Peterson, provides a most straight-forward and practical description of the Sabbath when he says,
The Sabbath is the time set aside to do nothing so that we can receive everything, to set aside our anxious attempts to make ourselves useful, to set aside our tense restlessness, to set aside our media-saturated boredom. Sabbath is a time to receive silence and let it deepen into gratitude, to receive quiet into which forgotten faces and voices unobtrusively make themselves present, to receive days of the just completed week and absorb the wonder and miracle still reverberating from each one, to receive our Lord’s amazing grace. (emphasis added)
Whatever day you keep holy, set apart for a purpose, is a day orchestrated in the natural rhythm of your existence to sustain, persevere, and allow you and I to fully enjoy life with our Father and one another. For, as Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).
Learning to Sabbath is vital to your healthy formation and the healthy formation of the community in which you follow Jesus with others. Setting aside time to not produce in order that we might receive what we need to live well is a practice we can ill afford to neglect, especially in our “circus” culture. Our hyper-productive (or at least busy) culture will not let us easily partake in nor transition from a day of praying and playing back into the industrial grind of laboring; whether in an office building or in our home.
While the idea of slowing down is appealing to most, there is a tension that arises in us as we look at Monday coming all too quickly and wonder, “How do ‘workday and Sabbath live together in one place’?” The friction our faith faces is coming out of Sabbath receiving into weekly taxation. Here is where I hope to be helpful.
I work two jobs. One full-time and another part-time. I have almost always had multiple irons-in-the-fire, so to speak, but my latest addition has been the most regular time consumer of the lot, adding a guaranteed 25-35 hours to an already full week. Time is constrained, and opportunity for quiet and stillness condensed. Add to the mix the internal pressure of wanting to do both jobs well and maximize my efforts while not slacking on the higher priorities of family and faith family, and it is not hard to imagine that my soul (and body) have felt little rest. Fortuitously, the job came about during a time when I was once again pondering Sabbath.
The amazing gift of Sabbath-ing is that it is a time to (re)discover that I am in the middle of something…not the center of it. My week and work are caught up in God’s creating and saving. So, while my myopic view is most often on the tasks, time and tensions that make up my little world, I have begun to realize that these things take place in a much larger space that is in the hands of my good Father.
This perspective has allowed me to enter a work week knowing that I am entering into a context in which God is continuing to create good, and very good, while saving what is broken.
Now, the mindset of being in the middle but not the center needs regular reinforcing, or so I have found! On Monday, it may be easier to believe and act out of such peace, but Wednesday is less so, not to mention Friday! So, I started to set aside moments of Sabbath. Some planned. Others, unexpected opportunities taken advantage of through simple preparation.
Knowing that time will be limited and my soul weakened in forgetting, I set aside 2-minute spaces during periods that I have some control of my schedule to reflect on what I have received from a Sabbath in Jesus: a trust that all I need is provided generously from my Father. These 2-minute reflections are simply times of prayerful thanks, restating what I believe regardless of how I feel. 2 minutes to find my place once again in the middle of God creating and saving.
I also am prepared for the unexpected moments of quiet (or overwhelming anxiety!) that give opportunity to Sabbath. The preparation is solely carrying with me a grounding resource, specifically at this time a book of poems written on Sabbath days by Wendell Berry. In the seconds of no work when anxious thoughts begin to fill the space, instead of scrolling through email or skimming ESPN’s site to distract or even praying aimlessly, I simply read a poem and find my thoughts and emotions drifting back into the middle of God creating and saving still.
Perhaps poems aren’t your thing, but allowing workday and Sabbath to live together takes little more than some planning and preparation. 2 minutes set aside a couple times a day, quick access to a grounding resource, and once again, I am “doing” out of what I am receiving, and finding myself in the middle but not the center.
 Eugene Peterson, Tell It Slant: a conversation on the language of Jesus in his stories and prayers, 82.
Featured Photo by Christian Fregnan