I’ve been away from posting for a couple of weeks because of some time off for vacation and because our three grand-children have been with us for a couple of weeks. The children left on Friday of this past week and so for the first time in a long time, my wife and I are taking some time to reflect and let “our souls catch up with our bodies” as one African group describes sabbath.
With regard to the latter, for most of us it isn’t often we take time just to step back and reflect on the nature of our lives in the context of God’s revelation in nature, in Scripture, and in the many ways in which God touches our lives. But there definitely is a time for that. That’s why, I think, God entrenched the concept of sabbath in the Ten Commandments. The idea was to rest for a day, just as God did, at the end of His creation. Under the Old Covenant, God’s people were to observe the Sabbath as a sign of their identity with God. (See Exodus 31:12-17.) It was a unique provision that also, I believe, pointed the way to grace ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Today, many of us still practice Sabbath, often on the first day of the week in recognition of Christ’s resurrection — not to fulfill a requirement of God’s law but as a principle of identity with the God of all grace.
For the Christ-follower, Sabbath may take many different forms including a weekly respite from the ordinary work of our lives in order to worship God both corporately and privately. It may also exist as a more extended period of time in our yearly schedule to step back for personal rest and reflection. Or there may be whole periods of time in our lives when we “take some time away” from our ordinary work in order to recalibrate. My wife, Carolyn and I, are in such a time right now. We have some time at home away from work and travel or engagement with a lot of other people just to read, to contemplate God’s world, to share some extended time with one another, to enjoy some physical recreation, as well as to engage with God through Scripture and prayer. It’s also a time to sort through some things in our minds as well as our house. It is a very short time to suspend our regular schedules for this purpose. Time with people will be less deliberate, at least for a week or two.
Today, for example, we had a leisurely get-up, listened to some good preaching on television, went to church for corporate worship, and came home to enjoy some conversation, light food, rest, some television sport, some reading, and some recreation. I’m writing this just now as an expression of my reflections. I anticipate that this coming week will be a more quiet one that will include some reading, some writing, and perhaps a little people time as God leads. It will be restful, sabbath-like. We will enjoy our yard, some recreation, and the wonders of God’s world at this time of year.
The past two weeks were not Sabbath, but the experience of caring for three children (aged almost 9, and 11) offered an important opportunity for reflection and inspiration. Since we don’t see our oldest daughter’s girls often, it was a more intensive time of relating to our grand-children. Though the time was busy and somewhat tiring, overall we thoroughly enjoyed the experience of having three little girls in our lives again. Now that our own children are grown and gone, it gave us a fresh opportunity to look at the world from a child’s point of view. It seems grand-parenting offers some interesting perspectives that we don’t have time to appreciate while we parent.
Someone has said that children are simply miniature adults in unpretentious form. They are less self-conscious saying what comes to their minds without thinking or worrying about the effect. They live much more on the level of feeling and emotion which makes them rather candid, sort of child-like! In many ways, it is very refreshing to live in that kind of world. But it also means that there are more outbursts of emotion — exuberance, uninhibited questions, and occasions for conflict. I was amazed last week to see the differences in personalities despite their common genes and experiences. One was more feisty, more inclined to feel like the victim. Another was more jovial, more inclined to see the humour in a situation. And at times they were inclined to defend one another against a perceived sense of wrong.
As I spent so much time with the children last week, I couldn’t help but think about God’s relationship to us as His children. Jesus often thought of us or spoke of his disciples in comparison to children (i.e John 13:33). Just as children are inclined to jump to conclusions or quickly speak their minds God must see us in the same way. I think He welcomes this sense of candor because it treats reality and truth simply and forthrightly. Best of all, I think, He loves it when like children we have such simple believing faith and express our love so ardently for Him — as our children express it to us. In our time together with the children, there were many genuine expressions of love and affection. Consternation in the midst of conflict and disapproval or even discipline quickly gave way to trust and affection through loving provision and communication.
Every once in awhile, it’s good to immerse ourselves in the world of children in order to gain God’s perspective on our own lives. In being with them, we’re reminded of God’s love for our candid expressions of love and truth. Such an experience gives us new insight and appreciation for the affectionate way in which He regards us.