Leaning In

I will admit, I’m not a good leaner.  My to-do list is 3 miles long.  I always have something I need to do.  I don’t lean in.  If anything, I lean away.

“Sabbath is not about being perfect.  It’s leaning into the Perfect One.”

Shelly Miller

This summer in my quest to read more books, I read Rhythms of Rest by Shelly Miller.  I would never have heard about her except that a friend heard the Sally Clarkson podcast where she was a guest.  Shelly’s husband is an Anglican Vicar and my husband is an Anglican Priest; Shelly lives in London and I love all things British and have lived there twice. My friend thought it would be a good fit.  She was right.  Deep down I think we’re kindred spirits.

Knowing that my heart was yearning to rest, I read Shelly’s book.  There were so many things about it that made it almost overwhelming emotionally (Lots of underlines and AMENS!) and I almost want to keep it to myself because it has meant that much to me.  But I know that if something is that good, I should tell others.  So here I go.  

The Bible says, “REMEMBER the Sabbath and keep it holy.” (Emphasis mine)

Shelly starts the book with, “Sabbath is the exhale required after six days of inhaling our work.(18)”  Sometimes, we don’t give ourselves time to exhale.  We’re holding our breath or breathing shallowly.  Our expectations for Sabbath often keep us away from true Sabbath.  Our “Busyness can be avoidance instead of preparation” (30).  And true Sabbath is trusting God.  Letting our hands off in order to REMEMBER God.

This book is about leaning into God while waiting. It is about rest.  It is about Sabbath.  

Sabbath.  Well that word has many pictures and connotations.  For me, Sabbath has always meant a rest, but have I ever really rested?  I feel like I’ve been taught about Sabbath because I was taught about the Israelites and the Ten Commandments.  I’ve been around people who were Sabbatarians who cooked all day Saturday in order to not cook on Sunday.  My dad is an Old Testament Scholar who specialized in the Torah (the first five books) and he has had ideas about Sabbath too.  But what is supposed to look like?  Are there strict rules which really don’t let your rest, or is there something more?  I err on the side of there is something more.

Rhythms of Rest also goes into the myths of what Sabbath is not.  

  1. Sabbath is a long period of stillness and quiet to read, pray, and nap.
  2. Sabbath is only possible after I get everything done (Guilty)
  3. Sabbath is something I do in order to be more productive.

I am guilty of all of those.  And yet even if I do get a chance to read, pray or nap or if I get everything done, how often do I let my mind stew over the next thing that has to happen?  My rest is clouded by my to-do list of tomorrow.  

So what does Sabbath look like? 

First, we must prepare for Sabbath.  The Jews clean their houses and get things ready.  We must also get things ready.  Shelly mentions a family that in order to find some rest on their Sabbath, they pull out paper plates.  She herself puts a meal in the crock pot that she can reheat on their Sabbath.  And as she prepares, she ruminates.  “In the same way cooking for others prepares us to receive people with the Spirit of hospitality, the practice of ruminating prepares us to receive God on the Sabbath, arms open, and extended in welcome” (185).  And with that rumination, comes excitement and expectation.  A glad welcome of the one who adopted and welcomed us.  

To expect that it should come on Sunday may be a little much. For those who may work in churches, Sunday has no time to rest.  All you who have small children (and big children) know that getting ready for Sunday morning church can be so stressful.  For some it is a quiet moment before everyone gets up.  Not all of us can afford a whole day, but maybe it’s an afternoon. 

I know I often look forward to those afternoons when I have nothing planned, and no doctor’s appointments.  I let the kids do what they want and I lean in.  My heart grows quiet and I let the silence and stillness speak.  And that is why we may have to find other ways to build the rhythm of Sabbath into our days. So maybe it is a different day of the week.  Or it may be some time carved out of Sunday where you put all electronics or work or chores and just are present.  It doesn’t have to be Sundays.  It just has to be a rhythm, a pattern, a waiting, expectantly.

Andrew Murray, the 19th Century Theologian, says in Waiting on God

“And when you are praying, let there be intervals of silence, reverent stillness of soul, in which you yield yourself to God, in case He may have aught He wishes to teach you or to work in you.”

Andrew Murray, Waiting on God, 21.

Shelly says, “ People in third-world countries teach those of us in the West that our poverty isn’t in tangible assets but in our inability to practice pausing” (137).  We struggle so hard in this area of giving up our time to pause, to be still.  We feel like our lives will fall apart if we’re not “on it” 24/7.  I know that as a parent, I feel that all the time.  If I don’t get the laundry done today, it will be overwhelming tomorrow.  If I leave the house a mess, and don’t get the kitchen cleaned up before I rest, I won’t be able to rest at all.  But God is calling us to remember Him.  To remember that He owns time.  That He has our back.  We just have to lean.  

I so loved this book.  I am not good at being intentional, but after reading it, I have ruminated.  I have ruminated on the fact that for the last 20+ years, I haven’t leaned.  I have just done what is placed in front of me. I have existed to get my to-do list finished when in reality it is never going to be finished.  I have missed those times of listening, where I was silent, where I have remembered God.  In the past few weeks, I have tried to be silent and I have seen sweet fellowship.  I have missed this and will continue to work on being intentional in this area.  I just have to REMEMBER and to wait expectantly.

“Sabbath isn’t about resting perfectly, it’s about resting in the One who is perfect (171).” 

May we put aside our images of what Sabbath “should” be and instead REMEMBER. May we be intentional about our time and live expectantly for our Sabbath with Him. May we lean in and, there, find our rest.

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