How We’re Learning 

by Brenda Pace

A peek into my journal: “This morning I sit in silence. The banishment of spoken word will not last all day, but for these few hours, the moratorium is self-imposed and necessary. For too many months, my days have held too much activity, and too little reflection.”

I wrote this statement during a time when I was pushing beyond my limits. I said, “yes” to the point that my emotional, physical, and spiritual tanks were on overload. I was not practicing the spiritual discipline of Sabbath rest and it was spilling out in my attitude and actions. Can you relate?

Now, before I go any further let me explain that I’m using the term “Sabbath” to mean more than going to church one day during the weekend. Taking a full day off to worship, rest, and play is the best practice. But, I also embrace the definition of Sabbath moments. Author Jerusalem Jackson Greer describes these moments of rest and worship as, “…creat(ing) pockets of time to celebrate rest, creation, and each other throughout our week.” Greer goes on to explain, “…miraculously, these little pockets of celebration spill(ed) over into our attitudes and habits…”

The joyful and necessary discipline of Sabbath rest is one I have had to rediscover repeatedly throughout my faith walk. When I make the time to stop, rest, and reflect, I gain perspective on the big picture rather than a random focus on the ankle biting issues that tend to overwhelm me. The practice reminds me of my limitations and my dependency on God.

In her book Liturgy of the Ordinary, author Tish Harrison Warren sites a study in the United Kingdom indicating that children learn to rest in the same way they learn to walk, run, and talk. Warren makes a profound conclusion based on this study: “Rest takes practice.” That makes sense to me, especially when I view Sabbath rest through the lens of spiritual discipline.

Now sisters, discipline is not one of my favorite words or practices! However, things that bring me joy, refreshment, and renewal are things that have come through discipline. Learning to read, play an instrument, exercise, paint, craft, the list could go on—all take time and discipline to learn. Once we master the skill, the joy and pleasure in using that skill follows.

Three Tips to Help You Practice Sabbath Moments:

  1. Give yourself permission to take a break.

It’s okay to put aside the to-do list for a few hours or days. Remind yourself that the most important things will get done. Stepping away from tasks and responsibilities for a time helps bring the essentials to the surface and allows the non-essentials to fade away. I like doing extras, but too often, I allow the extras to drive the train.

  1. Do something enjoyable.

What are things that refresh you in mind, body, and spirit? It could be as simple as a walk, or a quiet cup of coffee. Author Ken Shigematsu writes, “The golden rule for the Sabbath is to cease from what is necessary and to embrace what gives life.”

  1. Make a list of things you would do if you had no responsibilities.

What would you do if you had no clothes to fold, no deadline to meet, or no obligation to fulfill? Write them down. Now, do something on the list!

Your Turn:

The root word for “Sabbath” in Hebrew is “rested.” Genesis 2:2-3 tells us this is what God did on the seventh day after creation. Exodus 31:17 clarifies, “and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.” God reflected on his creative act, savored its beauty, and was refreshed.

Whether it’s a full day or moments throughout a day, what are ways you practice Sabbath rest?

What, if any, unique challenges does military life bring to this spiritual discipline?


Additional Resources:

Here are some books that have encouraged me in my practice and discipline of Sabbath rest.

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