Boundaries and Balance, Part 2: Sabbath Margins

 

 

I don’t do this often enough–take an afternoon through the week to pause my work button and enjoy a baseball game on a beautiful summer afternoon.

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” –Jesus, as quoted in Mark 2:27 NIV

What image comes to mind when you hear the word “Sabbath”?

A day of rest and relaxation? A day to restore spent batteries? A day to finally schedule those fun activities you don’t have time for the rest of the week? A day to worship God? A nice, long, delicious Sunday afternoon nap? Parking it before the television to watch the game? Or a day to catch up with all the work you couldn’t fit into Monday through Saturday?

For me, Sabbath meant a day of rest, and that, traditionally, was Sunday. And only Sunday.

So when I read Priscilla Shirer’s view of Sabbath in her Bible study Breathe, her words stopped me in my Sabbath tracks: “God always and eternally intended Sabbath to be a lifestyle—an attitude, a perspective, an orientation for living that enables us to govern our lives and steer clear of bondage.” (emphasis mine)

What bondage? I live in a free country. That makes me free, right?

Wrong. There are many things that can enslave me.

Like to-do lists. I cram too many “must-do” items in my daily schedule then feel like a big, fat failure when I don’t accomplish everything on the list.

“How can I get everything done on my to-do list?” I once lamented.

“Put less on your list,” someone answered.

I wish I would’ve heeded that advice when it was given to me. Instead I developed a daily and weekly schedule using an Excel spreadsheet. To which I am a slave.

Oh, I get such pleasure in crossing items off! So much so that I’ll remember something that needs done that isn’t on the list, do it, then add it to the list so I can cross it off. That’s pretty pathetic.

We become dependent on that to which we are addicted. I depended on crossing off items on the list to make me feel good about myself, to feel productive, perhaps to give my life meaning. But all I was doing was spinning my wheels and burning myself out. No wonder I felt overwhelmed, plumbed out, ready to quit the ministries to which God called me.

I needed rest, but, more important, I needed to examine my unrealistic lists and schedules and determine, prayerfully, what to cut and what to keep.

And I needed to set what Priscilla calls Sabbath margins around what remained—establish boundaries so I can have time for Shabbat. Boundaries, remember, aren’t burdens, but gifts.

Shabbat comes from a Hebrew word that means to cease, to stop, to rest—verbs that require decisive action.

A day on the Glendale Lake with our daughter, her boys, and our youngest son was just the Shabbat I needed at the end of July.

God created Sabbath on the seventh day to give the rest of what He created balance. A life without Sabbath, without rest, is out of balance. Sabbath is not an option but an integral part of life. A lifestyle, not a day.

I’m still wrapping my mind around Sabbath being a lifestyle.

As I examine my schedule and place margins around those activities I choose to keep, I’m beginning to understand that Sabbath is not just Sunday but every day of the week.

Where do you need to put Sabbath margins?

Father, I pray for guidance, wisdom, and discernment as I continue to follow Your lead of establishing Sabbath margins in my life so that nothing holds me captive but You. Amen.

Day trips are one our favorite ways to spend the Sabbath–guaranteed to keep me away from those vicious to-do lists. Dean and I took a day trip last Sunday afternoon to the Sherman Lighthouse in Tionesta, Pa.
Oh, we have so much fun taking selfies!

NOTE: Next week, we’ll continue the series “Boundaries and Balance” by examining other-people boundaries.

Read and meditate on Genesis 2:1–3; Exodus 20:8–11

© 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Boundaries and Balance, Part 1

 

 

“Tree and Stone Wall” Yorkshire Dales (Petr Kratochvil), Image in public domain

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. –Genesis 1:1 NIV

My favorite poet, Robert Frost, wrote a poem called “Mending Wall,” in which two neighbors take a springtime walk along the wall dividing their property, replacing stones and rebuilding the wall after the winter.

I understand why they had to do this. Our house is situated on a hillside, and landscaping the sloped yard presented a bit of a challenge. So my husband built a stone wall in the yard below the house to hold back the soil and keep it from moving. Every spring, though, after a winter of the ground freezing and thawing, expanding and contracting, my husband has to replace the stones that have shifted or fallen off completely.

In our case, the wall doesn’t mark a boundary, but serves to beautify the property and, more importantly, to retain the soil to keep it from shifting and eroding.

The fence around our garden, however, is anything but aesthetic—especially when I tie plastic grocery bags on the thin, flexible wire to scare away the country critters. In this case, the boundary serves to keep the unwanted out.

My neighbors have fences, too—electrified boundaries to keep their horses and cows in the pastures designated for them. “Good fences make good neighbors,” Frost wrote. I agree. I don’t want my neighbors’ horses and cows wandering in my yard, even though the fertilizer they’d leave behind could be used on the garden.

Walls, fences, boundaries serve different purposes: to hold back, retain, keep the unwanted out and the wanted in, mark property lines, and in some cases, beautify. In order to have order and not chaos, we need to establish and maintain boundaries.

Take creation, for instance. At first the earth was “a shapeless, chaotic mass” (Genesis 1:2 TLB). Then God established boundaries: He separated the light (day) from the darkness (night), the water from the sky, the seas from the dry land. The first man and woman were given a boundary, too—not to eat of a certain tree. And when they did (Frost also wrote, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.”), a boundary was placed around Eden (see Genesis 3:24).

When God gave His people, the Israelites, boundaries in the form of the Ten Commandments, He wanted to protect them, not hinder or hurt them. But once again, Frost’s observation, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall” came into play.

Boundaries are a vital part of society. Without them, everyone would do what’s right in their own eyes (see Judges 21:25), and chaos would reign.

A life without boundaries, then, is not a life of freedom, a life to do what you want when you want, how you want, and how long you want. Pull out all the stops and what do you have? Chaos, catastrophe, destruction, disaster.

US Forest Service, Image in public domain

Just look at the wildfires in California. Fire contained brings us warmth, gives us cooked food, relaxes us. But fire uncontained produces destruction.

Look at the devastation caused by the flooding in Texas. Water within its bounds provides us with transportation, nourishment, energy, and pleasure.

Harvey Day 5-12, August 30, 2017, Photo by J. Daniel Escareno (from flickr.com)

Look at Florida after Hurricane Irma blasted through. Wind within a certain range gives us refreshing breezes, energy, electricity. Wind unrestrained results in disaster.

Irma image courtesy of Cayobo (flickr.com)

In her Bible study Breathe Priscilla Shirer states, “Boundaries are not burdens. They are gifts.”

Over the next week, I want you to think about the boundaries in your life. What are they? What purposes do they serve? Do they hinder or help? Are they burdens or gifts?

Open my mind, heart, and spirit, O Lord, to what You want to reveal to me about the boundaries in my life. Amen.

NOTE: Next week, we’ll continue the series “Boundaries and Balance” by examining personal boundaries.

Read and meditate on Genesis 1–3

© 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.