My husband, Daryl, once put a small, potted plant on a stool at the front of the church as he began a sermon.
“I want this flower to grow,” he said. “And God can make it grow. God can do anything! So it shouldn’t matter what I do to this plant.” He jammed some big rocks into the soil. “God can work around rocks,” he said. Then he opened up an umbrella and placed it over the pot. “God can help this plant grow in the shade if he really wants to.”
Then came the pièce de résistance. He cracked open a can of Coke and poured it over the poor flower. A gardener in the pews gasped aloud. “What?” asked Daryl. “God can do anything, right? Why should it matter that I’m creating such terrible conditions for this plant to grow?”
He used the visual example to illustrate that if we want our souls to flourish, we have to care for them. The growth belongs to God; the conditions – at least in part – are in our hands. A cluttered soul won’t grow as well. A soul that says yes to everything will never get the chance to develop deep roots at all.
An uncluttered life is the opposite of a busy one. Certainly, there are seasons where we will be busier – holidays, a new baby, an aging relative. … The problem comes when we begin to be busy not just during short, isolated seasons, but all the time. When the adrenaline of rushing around becomes addictive, and we simply cannot stop. Then it’s a red flag that there’s something off in our priorities. That the conditions for the growth of our souls are imperiled at best.
For years, I prayed for the spiritual hardiness to be able to do everything in front of me, all the time, without stopping. To finally finish everything on my to-do list. I quoted Isaiah 40. “Renew my strength, God!” I demanded. “I’m tired! Where are you?”
But God never answered my prayer for the ability to keep going fast and forever without stopping to rest. He never does. I’m convinced He never will. I wanted supernatural strength to carry me seven days a week, nineteen-ish hours a day, but God’s rescue for His people is far more ordinary than that and far more holy. God has a deep longing for us to enter into the ancient and holy rhythm of work and play and rest. For the rescue of our sin-sick, overscheduled, self-reliant souls, God sends the Sabbath.
Sabbath is a promise-rich gift – the command to stop once a week, every week, amid the rushing water flooding our lives, to climb aboard God’s peaceful boat where we will find rest. Sabbath keeping is holding one day a week open to God with no work obligations, on-call responsibilities, or home front to-do lists. It is a special, holy, sacred, ordinary, recurring day, set aside (as Eugene Peterson puts it) for praying and playing. In a culture driven by doing, and going, and producing, and consuming, it doesn’t get much more radical than Sabbath.
The need for Sabbath is a profoundly human one, a present given to us at the start of creation, an essential – I’d even say the essential – tool for a healthy soul. Sabbath keeping is life, and we need it now more than ever. To a culture that worships productivity, Sabbath is God’s way of saying stop. To a people who define ourselves by our speed, Sabbath is God’s way of saying rest. To a church that all too often forgets its main mission of worshiping the living God, Sabbath is His way of saying remember who you are. Remember whose you are.
Excerpted from Uncluttered, © 2018 Courtney Ellis. Reprinted by permission of Rose Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.
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