by Kim Allen, Director of SHINE Children's Ministry
Gentlemen, start your engines.
If you’re like me, revving up for the school year is a love/hate relationship. I love shopping for hip notebooks and cool gadgets that still have their “shiny” and new sneakers and fresh backpacks that don’t look like a truck has run over them. Parents, you know what I’m talking about. One of my favorite movie quotes refers to “a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils.” (Free Starbucks gift card for the first parent to email me with this mystery title.)
Along with back-to-school shopping, we add the next layer of resolve. Healthier lunches and homework filing systems and punctuality in carpool duty. After this, we top it off with the extracurricular—all those fun things we get to drive to in 4pm traffic.
But even with the best preparation, we still feel uncertainty. How will our kids adjust? Will I be able to balance my work and home responsibilities? How do we help our families navigate the inevitable unknowns that this year holds?
As much as we are tempted to Google the answer to whatever question is plaguing us, Jesus provides an alternate way. Some of us might think that we can download His handbook to search the index for an answer. But that’s not quite how it works. It’s simple, but it’s not easy, especially in our day.
The good news is God not only anticipated 2018, He planned for it. He already knew about first-day jitters and classroom bullies and iPhones for middle schoolers and exhaustion by September. When Jesus talks, Jesus speaks not just to His twelve disciples, but His disciples for all time. Because even though the times change, the human heart doesn’t.
In John 15:1-5, Jesus talks about abiding (not a vocab word we use every day, but it’s worth contemplating.) Abiding gives the sense of home—of leisure, of being at rest. Unfortunately, with the busyness of our lives, sometimes home feels anything but restful and abiding doesn’t seem like a realistic expectation.
The simple part is that abiding doesn’t require any special tool or knowledge. Abiding is acknowledging God’s constant presence. He is always shepherding, always guiding, always helping His people.
However, abiding doesn’t just happen; abiding is a discipline. In the same way we work with a spouse or a friend to try to find the time to be together, we work to connect with the Lord. This takes practice and requires our intentional seeking of space and time to enjoy Him.
God has a term for this kind of space and time: Sabbath rest. Our initial reaction to Sabbath might be thoughts of Sundays past, when families strolled unhurriedly into the church service and enjoyed a fried chicken lunch afterward, followed by a big fat nap. Not that I would turn that down, but this may not be possible, especially if you live with a four-year-old.
But there’s hope. There are many ways to approach Sabbath rest and there is much liberty for Christians in the method of finding it. It certainly involves regular corporate worship, when we gather weekly with our brothers and sisters in Christ to celebrate the Resurrection (which is not just for Easter, by the way), but it’s not limited to one hour on Sunday mornings.
Sabbath rest is a gift to us from a loving Father, who wants us to know His constant presence. As my very wise husband says, “We work from our rest, not rest from our work.” The idea is this: all that is facing us, all the uncertainty, is approached each day from a place of rest and replenishment that we have received from the Fountain of Life in Sabbath rest. When we have allowed Him to fill us on a regular basis (weekly, daily, moment-by-moment), our perspective and approach to life will be grounded in His ways and not our own striving.
Not that I have this figured out, but I am learning in my old age to accept this gift of rest as one of the most loving things God has to offer me. He longs to restore my soul and make me lie down in green pastures, even when I don’t want to or feel like I have the time for it. Because He knows at the end of the day, eventually my new lunch box will look like a truck has run over it.