Be very careful, then, how you live...
Saturday in Delaware was stormy and humid. I was getting ready to officiate the wedding of some beloved friends. But right as I preparing to leave, my neighbor a few doors down called out to me and asked if I could give him a hand. I was in a full suit, so I admit that I was a little nervous he was going to ask me to help move a sofa or something. I didn't want to sweat through my celebration clothes before I even got to the wedding! But it turns out that he had some friends visiting, and he just needed help with his thermostat.
Here's the thing, though. The thermostat wasn't broken. It was working fine. It simply needed to be turned down a few degrees because the humidity was making the living room a little toasty. Also- he knows exactly how to work his thermostat. That wasn't the problem either.
So what on earth was I doing there? Well, it was Saturday, and my neighbor is Jewish. He observes Shabbat very specifically. And that means that on the day of rest, no work is allowed. And to him, that means no pushing the button to drop the thermostat 3 degrees. So I pushed the button for him, and ten seconds later, I was back out the door. I didn't even break a sweat!
Now, it would be easy (some of you already went there) to suggest that this is a bit legalistic or ridiculous. But let's hold off on judgment, because that's not what I took away from that moment. He was not stressed. He had a smile and simply asked if I was available. He was at peace and I was happy to help.
The moment left me thinking about my own life and faith convictions, and my own peculiarities. And specifically, I thought about my habits of embracing God's gift of rest. Around here we call it "sabbath-keeping." In the Jesus faith, it may look different from my Jewish friends. Yet Jesus had no desire to abolish the need for rest in God. In fact, he expanded it to be even more encompassing, placing himself as the new sabbath space and encouraging people to understand that rest is a gift, and it need not limit them from doing good (Mk 2:27/Mt. 12:12).
But that's more theology than we're doing today. The point is that my friend had drawn some lines in his own life in order to practice rest in God, and it was ok that it looked odd and peculiar.
When I step away from my work and striving to rest with God (sabbath-keeping), I have no problem adjusting my thermostat. Yet there are other things that I've learned I can't do- check email, scroll, try to complete tasks, etc. I'm not even allowed to run fast on those days! It's a little peculiar. I'm good with that. I'm sure I'll continue to draw new and peculiar lines in my life as my own seasons change.
As we walk with Jesus, learning to draw healthy personal lines to keep us rooted in our identity in him is crucial for spiritual formation. It requires intentionality, and sometimes it will make us a little strange.
We cannot talk about this enough, because we are swimming in a societal ocean of speed and unrest. In order to slow down for loving connection with Jesus, we must establish boundaries and rhythms. It will be countercultural. People may be happy to hear about our practices of rest.... "but still, I just don't understand why you didn't respond to my text!!" They may not understand some of our peculiarities, whatever they are.
After I walked out of my neighbor's house and wished him a restful shabbat, I was left with a question:
Am I willing to draw lines in my own life in order to fully enter into the gift of God's rest?
(plus a bonus question... am I happy to help others as they do the same??)
So here's today's simple invitation:
Where will you be a little ridiculous to embrace God's gift of rest?
Jesus longs to give us his rest and his presence. But he can't do it alone. We've got to do the work of rest. Good luck!
Jesus, help me establish rhythms of grace to rest in you.
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