4 Ways to Practice Sabbath This Year
By Ann Swindell
January 5, 2016
Many of us have just finished a busy year, full of work, obligations, relationships, and opportunities.
These things are good and meaningful, and we wouldn’t want to live our lives without them. But a lot of us are also intensely busy much more than we should be. We assume that we should be busy or that a busy life is inevitable.
But while there will always be seasons of our lives that are necessarily more demanding than others, they should be just that—seasons that come and go, not indefinite periods of time.
Why? Because chronic busyness can inhibit our ability to live attentively, and attentiveness is one of the clearest ways we have to acknowledge and encounter God’s presence in our daily lives. When we’re too busy to slow down, it becomes very easy to miss what God is doing in the regular, hum-drum monotony of our lives. And really, that’s the only place we can actually encounter God: here and now, today.
Here are four ways to slow down and pay attention to God’s work in the middle of our normal lives—ways that can strengthen our faith in God’s goodness and love every day.
When we’re too busy to slow down, it becomes very easy to miss what God is doing in the regular, hum-drum monotony of our lives.
Pay Attention to What You Have
If you’re like me, then you assume you’re thankful for what you have. But when I actually make the time to slow down and think about what I have—and then speak my gratitude out loud, in prayer or praise, I often find myself overwhelmed with what God has given to me.
Yes, I am thankful for the heat in our apartment. Yes, I am thankful for the gas in my car. Yes, I am thankful for the water that runs like a river from my sink. Yes, I am thankful for eyes that see and for glasses that help me. Yes, I am thankful for my work and my family. Yes, I am thankful for a salvation I could never earn, a Love I can never outrun. Yes, yes, yes.
Paying attention to all I have—already—turns my heart toward Jesus in thankfulness. I may not have all I want, but I have so much more than I deserve, all because of God’s love and mercy to me. Paying attention helps me encounter Him afresh.
Make Time to Play
Whatever it is you love—writing poetry, baking cookies, strumming chords, going hiking, dreaming up new business ideas—make time to do those things.
Most of us have things we enjoy that don’t pay the bills, and that’s OK. In fact, it’s good. We need to do things for our souls that remind us that we are humans made in the image of God rather than workers made to produce and achieve.
As much as we can, it’s important to step back from work to let our playfulness emerge, because when we play, we remember that we are not in control of making the world turn—we aren’t God, and that’s a gift. We can take a breather, play a bit, enjoy the people and things in front of us. Playing helps us stay attentive to how God is the only one who holds it all together, and how we can trust in His control.
Enjoy the Meal
Many of us scarf down our food, trying to fuel ourselves as quickly as possible before moving on to the next thing we have to do. And while it’s unrealistic to think our boss is going to give us three hours to savor our lunch, we can take a few extra moments to actually consider what we’re eating.
Sit and consider the gift of being alive for another day. Sit and remember that you are loved by a God who made you out of nothing and did all that was necessary to save you forever.
That apple you tossed in your bag this morning? Try to attend to it—consider how it smells, then the way it crunches in your mouth. How much flavor is packed inside of one apple? Often, too much to name. What a gift, that God would give us so much to experience in one bite!
God, who could have given us brown squares to eat every morning, noon and night, has given us an abundance of flavors, textures and smells to experience every single day. We can encounter His kindness to us in this way when we are attentive to what we eat. And, we can also pray for those who lack such options and abundance, acknowledging that our being fed is a gift in itself.
Sit in the Stillness With Christ
No noise, no phone, no music. Slow down enough to sit and feel your own chest rising and falling. Sit and consider the gift of being alive for another day. Sit and remember that you are loved by a God who made you out of nothing and did all that was necessary to save you forever. Ponder His goodness, His sacrifice, His mercy. Read the Bible in the quiet, and marvel at the Gospel when there are no distractions. Let the Good News call your attention, again, to the great Savior, Jesus Christ.
As we slow down for moments or days and pay attention to the lives we are already living, we will find Christ is already in the midst of us—an incredible, beautiful gift.
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