1 / Reflections on Sabbath: Stop

by Ashley S. Davis, M.A., Resident in Counseling, Rivermont Counseling LLC

When I think about practicing Sabbath, it can feel overwhelming, and if I’m honest, downright unrealistic. While a part of me longs for Sabbath, the more practical part of me wonders if it’s possible to practice this spiritual discipline consistently.

In “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality,” Pete Scazzero empathizes with this internal conflict and encourages Christians to approach Sabbath in four bite-sized pieces: stop, rest, delight, and contemplate.

Part One: Stop
Sabbath requires that we first STOP. But that poses a huge problem because there’s always so much to do! We all have responsibilities: important roles, tasks, and obligations that compel us to keep going, keep moving, keep working. The pressure, the pace, and the need are unrelenting.

Regardless of this 21st century reality, God asks us to observe Sabbath. He invites us to disengage from the work that needs doing for a short time because there is something more valuable, albeit less pressing, that needs attending: our very souls.

When I consider that practicing Sabbath is a command (not a gentle suggestion), I’m reminded that God created us with physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual limitations. While the pace of life stops for no one, God knows that I am finite, I am limited, and therefore I must stop.
I need refreshment. I need time and space to just be. With God. With Myself.

The image of a call center comes to mind. The phone keeps on ringing incessantly – there is no question about that. But how long can one person go on answering phone call after scripted phone call with no break, before it all starts to feel entirely unmanageable?

I’m so thankful our Father knows we need a break. Within his gracious invitation to take a break is another holy invitation: to surrender. Scazerro says it like this: “The core spiritual issue in stopping revolves around trust …. We stop on Sabbaths because God is on the throne, assuring us the world will not fall apart if we cease our activities.”

I can pause because I am not single-handedly holding my world together. How quickly I forget that sometimes!

We are each given this choice: In the face of unrelenting responsibilities, will I trust God enough to pause … for a few hours, for an afternoon, for an entire 24-hour period? This conscious decision to surrender control for a set period of time each week comes before the practical questions of “how” and “when” and “for how long.” I imagine the conversations about what it looks like to pause will be as diverse as the individuals in our church body.

I hope we start having these conversations about what it might look like for each of us to stop. This decision is counter-cultural, so there will be resistance (I feel it welling up within me) but practicing the discipline of stopping is a process. Like learning any new skill, it will take time, practice, and lots of grace to discern how the Holy Spirit is leading each of us to stop for Sabbath.

**Disclaimer: The ideas presented in this blog post are the opinion of a Resident in Counseling, and are not intended to be understood as professional mental health advice, treatment, diagnosis, or an indication of a professional relationship between the reader and the writer. If you are seeking mental health counseling, contact a counselor in your area. If you are experiencing an emergency, head to your nearest emergency room or call 911.

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