I’m embarrassed to admit it but one of the areas of spirituality and Creation Care that I fail at miserably is the consistent practice of the Sabbath. You might think that this would not be a problem for someone who is a pastor but for me it truly is. I know that the Bible calls for Sabbath rest for both man and beast, and I am aware that Jesus practiced this himself. Still, other than a short nap here or there I seldom take time to rest as the Scriptures command.
Dr. Matthew Sleeth believes that’s the renewal of Sabbath rest is crucial to the health of both humans and Creation. I’ve heard him say that this must become a priority for us if we want to experience the good life and to heal the earth. Thankfully, Dr. Sleeth is currently writing a book on the subject, called “24/6”, that is due out this fall. I know that it is a book I’ll definitely have to read.
A couple of days ago I was reading Stephen Shortridge’s latest book, Deepest Thanks, Deeper Apologies. In one of the chapters Stephen offered some interesting comparisons between Sabbath rest and rest marks in a musical score. He writes: “In a piece of music, the notation for ‘rest’ is a pause in the music. The rest is as important as the note. The space that is not filled with music is a space that helps frame the music. It keeps its meter and holds the melody in place. The musical rest is a positive filling of that space, not a void.” Shortridge goes on to say, “The composer of the music carefully placed those rests as parts of the whole. To remove them changes everything about the music: its meter, its interpretation, even the melody.”
You can probably see where all of this is heading. “God wrote a piece of music—a symphony, so to speak. Its notes and directives are contained in His Word. One of those directives is to rest.” It would seem that a lot of modern individuals, like myself, have been ignoring or editing out God’s “rest marks.”
Usually each November I join our church choir so I can sing the Christmas cantata with them. Ask any choir member, and especially the choir director, and they will tell you I am notorious for missing the rest marks. I typically sing right through them. This practice messes up the sound the composer had in mind when he or she wrote the music and diminishes the choir’s presentation. That’s why everyone in the choir insists I mark and remember where the rests are found.
I’ve already admitted I’m not very good at observing or practicing God’s “rest marks” either. This causes trouble for me personally, for those around me, and for Creation as well. As Shortbridge points out, the pauses God calls for in life “are not empty spaces to be filled; they are opportunities to hear from God and be refreshed in His presence.” He says that it is in the rest, silence and solitude that “we hear the melodies of God, learn His rhythms, and come to know His song.” I would add to this, it is also where we come to see God in Creation.
Not only is the importance of rest noted throughout the Scriptures, the same message is proclaimed throughout God’s “Other Book”—Creation. God has placed “rest marks” in the lives of all living things. In order to survive animals must rest. In order to thrive plants must rest too. There’s a sense in which each night the earth comes to rest as well. As humans we are no different. Physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally we need rest. That’s just the way God made us. When we fail to pay attention to His “rest marks” we suffer, as do all those around us. I have got to begin paying more attention to the God’s rest marks. How about you?
(I photographed the whitetail fawn shown above at Shenandoah National Park. The rhododendron plant was photographed in Tennessee. I took the picture of my dog, Sierra, in my home.)