Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sabbath and Silence

 One of my New Year's resolutions was to slow down, so this video got my attention. I'm facilitating a study of Richard Foster's Freedom of Simplicity, and as I've been reading in preparation for each week's discussion, I am sensing a connection between simplicity, singleness of purpose and slowing down.

The deeper I dig into spirituality and simplicity, the more counter-cultural I find Christianity to be. In Freedom of Simplicity, Foster observes that if we practice Sabbath, it goes against our urges to get ahead, be productive and provide for our own futures. The discipline of Sabbath leads us, if faithfully practiced, to recognize that life does not consist in the abundance of possessions or promotions or productive actions. Life is only found in our obedience to God and in the recognition that our God who loves us provides all that we need. As we detach from our culture's ravenous pursuit of status and possessions and power, we can learn to be content with what we have, to enjoy all that God has already given us in creation (including relationships), and we become more aware of the needs of others and thus, more compassionate. We then finally begin to live what we pray in the Lord's Prayer: thy Kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as in heaven.

Silence is the complement to Sabbath, because silence causes us to learn to quiet our minds. It is the inner manifestation of Sabbath, for if all we do is cease actual activity, our minds are likely to work overtime to make up for the lack of external busyness. In my own experience, without the discipline of contemplative prayer, I shift into thinking about what I will do when I am no longer practicing Sabbath. Silence is Sabbath for my mind.

Ironically, these disciplines are likely the most difficult for us to practice in our American society. When I've suggested dependence on God's provision, I've received sometimes angry protests. I understand, because I struggle to be dependent on God and find it difficult to reconcile productivity and dependence. It seems to me that we are often unwilling to accept that who we are is not defined by what we do, that, in fact, anything we do, for it to actually glorify God, has to arise out of who we are. And we cannot know who we are at the pace we live our lives. We can only discover who we are through the faithful, regular practices of Sabbath and silence.

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