Today I started the new book by Mark Buchanan, author of the well-written Your God Is Too Safe and a few others that we stock and that look quite good. The new one is called, delightfully, The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul By Restoring Sabbath (Word) $17.99. I don’t know what more can be said about sabbath—I’ve read several, and they are all really inspiring—but the remarkable endorsements on this one, and his past good work made me want to glory in this one for a while. A rainy Sunday, kids off to church youth group, me nursing an awful cold.
The preface has a very nicely written telling of his memory growing up with cats; fun, and very evocative. He describes watching them in their catnaps, and continues:
I learned to join them, the cats in their cradles of sunlight. I curled up or sprawled out beside them and catnapped too. It had a unique power to replenish. Fifteen, twenty minutes later, a shadow like a cool, dry hand edged up my flesh and nudged me awake. I stirred, set up, and went about the rest of my day fresly aware.
That image comes to mind when I think of Sabbath; a patch of sunlight falling through a window on a winter’s day. It’s a small yet ample chunk of space, a narrow yet full segment of time. In it, you can lie down and rest. From it, you can rise up and go—stronger, lighter, ready to work again with vigor and a clear mind. It is room enough, time enough, in which to relinquish all encumbrances, to act as though their existence has nothing whatsoever to do with your won. It is an invitation, at one and the same time, to empty yourself and fill yourself.
I am not a catnapper. I wake up dazed and ineffectual, embarassed by the drool on my shirt. But the image works as a pointer to part of what Sabbath is about. It helps me believe that a day apart is enough, that trusting God is safe and good, that we need not always be productive. I love his take on a classic Bible text in his next story, which begins,
In the book of Acts, Philip the evangelist meets a nobleman from Ethiopia. He’s the treasurer for Ethiopia’s queen, an important man on important business. He’s a man in such a hurry that he does his reading while racing along on his chariot, like someone checking his Palm Pilot for e-mails between phone calls and strategy meetings.
The Spirit prompts Philip to come alongside him. It is one of God’s strange works of choreography: the Ethiopian at that very moment is reading something from Isaiah, something that stirs in him wonder and hunger. It gives him a taste for something more…
In the beautiful Mary Oliver poem (The Swan) which opens the book there is a line about being “idle and blessed.” I hope your Sabbath was such.