December 14, 2011
Sabbath changed my seminary experience. Our first year as full-time students and part-time workers completely drained both my husband and me of every bit of energy we had. So when we were first introduced to Sabbath, it was like introducing a desert wanderer to a natural spring. We dove right in.
Initially, Sabbath was about rest. Physical rest. Like all I could do was sleep from the moment we got home from church until the sun went down. That’s not metaphorical. I literally needed a three to four hour nap every Sunday. But it didn’t take me long to realize that Sabbath was about much more.
This summer, I had the opportunity to teach on Sabbath using Mark Buchanan’s book The Rest of God (I highly recommend it). Getting a group of women who are all moms, teachers, social workers, security guards, and caregivers to buy into an Old Testament law to rest for a day I assumed would take some explanation. So the first night, this was the illustration I used (I apologize for the lack of audio. Please queue your imagination).
I start playing a song. Think, perhaps, of the “Hallelujah Chorus.” Something with a complicated melody line and plenty of instruments. Maybe go ahead and turn up the volume on your Pandora station. What line of the music are you paying attention to? Do you hear the trumpet? Harmony? Melody? Drums? Keyboard?
Then I played a stripped down version of the song, leaving only the bass guitar. It was a simple strummed melody. Can you hear it? Bumm…bum bum… bummmmmm. After several measures, I slowly added in one line at a time. The acoustic guitar. The keyboard. There’s the drums. Ah, the voices. Alto. Soprano. The full choir swells into the chorus of the piece.
Now what do you hear?
If I ask you to, can you hear the bass line?
This, I suggest, is the clarity of voice that Sabbath provides. It’s the opportunity to listen directly to what God has for you in your life. It’s the opportunity to “tune into the bass line.” The rest of the week will certainly bring on a full symphony of interruptions and priority lines. But when you’ve spent time just listening to the bass line in isolation, you easily queue into the rhythm and the direction of the piece as a whole. You also can easily be called back to that simple bass line even in the midst of a full orchestra of sounds. In fact, the soprano’s line now sounds more full when heard in harmony with the bass line.
So, too, when you practice weekly Sabbath. You can more distinctly hear how God is calling you even when the doctor lands a tough diagnosis, the kids need to be bussed to an impromptu make-up game, your parents suddenly need assistance, work and school are battling for your attention, and oh yeah, the laundry needs to be done. You can still tune into the places where God is calling you. You can hear the themes he is calling your attention to. For me, I have found that hearing once a week from God about where he’s asking for my surrender or is calling for my transformation suddenly turns every paper, reading assignment, house chore, and coffee date into an encounter with the living God.
What practices have you used to focus to and listen for God’s voice in your life?