No, I don’t have a hyphenated last name, and I don’t live south of the border in the USA, but I do have something in common with both Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Nadia Bolz-Weber because we each spoke at Seattle Pacific University this month.
I was excited by the invitation to speak as part of SPU’s chapel series on Sabbath, and when I heard that Jonathan would be speaking the week before in the same series, and that Nadia would be speaking two weeks before about her most recent book, I felt more than a little starstruck.
After all, I’m not exactly “a celebrated spiritual writer and sought-after speaker” like Jonathan, or a New York Times best-selling author like Nadia. What was I doing in the same line up as the two of them? Just thinking about travelling down to Seattle by myself and speaking in a new context seemed huge to me, and seeing their names on the list of speakers ramped everything up another notch.
When I tried to share how I felt, most people just didn’t get it. Why would you be nervous? they asked. SPU changed the date for you, so of course they want you to come. Of course you have something to share. Others simply stared at me blankly–and that’s when I realized that they had never heard of Nadia Bolz-Weber or Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. In their world, I was actually more of an author and speaker, more famous and more sought-after than both of them put together.
And you know what? That’s true for each of us. To some people, YOU are the celebrity in their world. Your family, friends, and others in your circles may not have read Nadia’s books. They may not have heard Jonathan speak. They may not know whatever-well-known-name-you’d-like-to-insert-here. But they know YOU, and that means you will be able to speak to them more directly and more effectively than Nadia or Jonathan or me or anyone else.
That’s what we all have in common–we each have a voice, we each have a circle of people that we relate to, share our lives with, and who will hear us out. Some circles may be bigger than others, but none will have exactly the same kind of reach as yours.
So speak up, speak out, don’t be intimidated because someone else’s voice is louder or more celebrated or wiser or funnier or clearer or more whatever-you-would-like-yours-to-be. Every voice has a unique audience, and every voice counts.
Oh and my SPU chapel talk? I loved my time with the SPU community, and everything went well after all–I didn’t get turned back at the border, or lose my notes on the bus, or become suddenly and hopelessly tongue-tied, or trip on the carpet. I spoke on Sabbath, Self-Care, and Sacred Pauses, and outlined four key ingredients of sabbath:
- rest (Exodus 23:12, Mark 6:31),
- worship (Exodus 5:1, Luke 4:16) ,
- trusting in God instead of our own efforts (Exodus 20:2, Ephesians 2:8-9), and
- acting in life-giving ways (Isaiah 56:1-2, Mark 2:23-3:6).
Here is my conclusion:
So what does all of this mean for our Sabbath practice today?
Well first of all it means that I’m not going to give you a set of rules to follow. When God delivered the people from slavery in Egypt, God gave them a new freedom–not a new legalism. As part of the Ten Commandments, the Sabbath was given as part of God’s vision for healthy living, not as a heavy burden.
So instead of a set of rules, I will leave you with a set of questions for your own thoughtful reflection and prayer. As you consider your own personal Sabbath practice–once-a-week and in your Sabbath moments (or what I call sacred pauses)–which of these do you need more of?
Do you need more rest?
More trusting in God?
More acting in life-giving ways?
Whatever your current Sabbath practice or non-practice, can you round out your understanding of Sabbath to include these four ingredients? Will you allow God to enlarge the meaning of Sabbath and its place in your life?
In our Sabbath practice, may we live out this promise from James 4:8:
Draw near to God,
and God will draw near to you.
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