We Have Entered The Coronavirus Sabbath

In 44 years of life, I have never seen anything like this – the complete shutdown of all aspects of society. No segment of society is unaffected by COVID-19. I am working from home for the first time in my life, no churches are meeting in a building, March Madness is canceled, schools are shuttered, and traffic is eerily clear.

I find it very profound that this is all happening during Lent, that six week period where Christians prepare for Easter by solemn services, prayer, repentance, and self-denial. God appreciates our humble attempts to forgo caffeine or TV during Lent but this year he may be forcing us to sacrifice much more. He may be forcing us into an extended Sabbath.

If you are unfamiliar with Sabbath, it is the ceasing of work for one day, usually Sunday, to worship, rest, and learn to trust God with our time and energy. The idea in Sabbath keeping is that we follow God’s example of resting on the seventh day of creation and make a “radical statement that we are not God, and we trust him to hold the world together.”

Those that do not practice Sabbath can face a terrible toll. Peter Scazzero, in his book The Emotionally Healthy Leader, says, “If we do not keep the Sabbath, we are incurring a deficit and God himself will stop us, through a crisis, a health issue, an emergency, or anything that gets our attention.”

grayscale photo of a woman resting on a wooden chair

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Has God stopped us to get our attention?

I am very limited in knowing what God is up to but I can tell you that I have struggled in the past two weeks to accept my inactivity. I have struggled surrendering my time and agenda. I have struggled losing the routines that give me a sense of control over my life. I have struggled not being king over my little kingdom.

God is certainly using this disruption to get my attention; to cling to him for my next move even if that move is to do nothing. I look around my house and see the people that are the most precious to me and remember that they need me and I need them. I come to grips with my tendency to live out of a sense of scarcity rather than abundance. These are all lessons that I need to learn and work on and I would not be working on them right now if it wasn’t for this extended Sabbath that we are all in.

I want to lean into this time; learn to rest; learn to trust; and let God be in charge and receive this gift of Sabbath that can come in no other way.

How is God getting your attention during this extended Sabbath? Have you committed this time to him or are you still clinging to your own wants and stubbornness? How might this Sabbath get you to Grow Up?

God Is Not Practicing Social Distancing

As if modern life wasn’t isolating enough, experts are telling us that in order to avoid a raging virus and to save our own health and that of others we must isolate ourselves and distance ourselves from fellow humans and their contact.

How depressing and lonely.

May we find encouragement in the nearness of God. “Yeah, Yeah,” you might say, “he is in heaven and that seems like a far off place.” This is not true. The Greek word that is at the root of the word “heaven” means “to cover” or “to encompass.” Heaven surrounds us and it is literally the air we breathe. When we pray, “Our father, who art in heaven…” we have to understand that heaven, where God is present, is in the farthest reaches of the cosmos but also near to us, as near as the particles of oxygen that we survive on.

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Frederick Buechner said, “If we only had eyes to see and ears to hear and wits to understand, we would know that the Kingdom of God in the sense of holiness, goodness, beauty is as close as breathing and is crying out to be born both within ourselves and with the world.”

You may have to work from home but God is closer than the air you breathe. You may not be able to worship with your church family but God is closer than the air you breathe. Your favorite restaurant may be closed but God is closer than the air you breathe. You may be quarantined but God is closer than the air you breathe. You may be isolated from family and friends but God is closer than the air you breathe. Six feet of social distancing may feel like a canyon between you and others but God is closer than the air you breathe.

God is there to listen to you, to speak to you, and to be present with you. Embrace the nearness of God and draw comfort, peace, and a way to live in these isolated times.

 

This post was inspired by a daily reading from The Reservoir: A Spiritual Formation Devotional, Renovare, 2019.

 

Three Ways To Grow Up

Last week, we discussed how our interaction with God progresses and changes because God wants us to grow and mature and not stay at just one level of commitment and experiences. Here are a few ways for us to step out of a child like existence with God and begin to experience a deeper and advanced spiritual life.

  1. Find Examples of Mature Christians– Our default in most areas, is to find a minimal effective dose when it comes to change we are trying to make. We want just enough nutrition, just enough exercise, just enough commitment, and just enough better choices. Anything more means that we may have to face up to our limitations and weaknesses and that is not pretty. We do the same with who we model our lives after. We gravitate towards people that have managed to find a way to do just enough in their Christian life but still not really sacrifice their status quo or extend themselves for the good of their own life and those around them. Christians that are truly Growing Up are out there but they may be harder to find because their growth may be more subtle and less sensational then some of the example that get applause at our churches. Find one and let them mentor you in Growing Up.
  2. Serve – For those of us that like to keep our lives smooth, easy, and free of challenges being asked to serve others in any capacity is often not welcomed. Yet, serving is a great way to let God show us something about ourselves that we need to work on. Yes, we might have to sacrifice our time and humility and then face the reality that we have a lot of growing up to do. That is the point.

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    Smithsonian American Art Museum

  3. Study Jesus – In most western churches, Paul often gets brought up more than Jesus. Sometimes pastors get so enamored by the studious and deep theology of the later New Testament that the life of Jesus found in the Gospels barely gets studied. This is a real shame. If Jesus is our divine exemplar wrapped in human flesh then we need to learn how he talked with people, how he prayed, what upset him, what he taught, and so much more. We can’t be more Christlike if we are not seeing what Christ was like. Then, when we get to passages that tell us that Christ is in us and we are indwelt by him we will know that he not only gives us an example but also helps us be more like himself.

Doing these things takes work but most real growth requires commitment and intention. If that commitment and intention doesn’t exist then we will remain in our less mature and small faith.

Is God Absent? Maybe He Just Wants You To Grow Up

An aspect of Growing Up physically and as a human that we often ignore is the role our parents play in that process. In the same way, the role that God plays in our spiritual growth cannot be ignored.

Just as our parents interact with us much differently at age 15 than they did at age 5, God’s interaction with us now will be different than it was when we first began to know him. If we miss this fact, then we will think that God has changed or that he doesn’t care for us now in the same way that he once did.

How might God respond to a maturing believer different from a young believer? A young believer needs attention, reassurance, direction at multiple turns, and signs of care and love. A maturing believer is already aware of these things so they need transformation of the heart, a deeper closeness, a mission or calling, and the reality of God’s love even in dark times.

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Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of William T. Evans

Jesus had times that he taught multitudes and served them and performed miracles for them but he also had times that he just spoke and taught and revealed himself to his disciples. The approach and messages were different because of the intimacy that he had with each group. Many of the first group progressed to become “disciples” but only as their relationship grew and morphed into something more than simply responding to a lesson or a sign of God.

If you are wondering why your spiritual life has become halted or if you feel like you are clinging on to a faith that seems distant and inappropriate for your stage in life, then maybe it is time to follow Christ into a deeper, Grown Up life. You have progressed from infant formula and need solid food.

Next time, we will look at some simple ways to start your Grown Up life.