Rest is a challenge for almost all of us in our frantic and distracted world. For anyone who is longing to stop and rest and delight but feels stuck in a pattern of never-enough-time, this conversation is for you. Ruth Haley Barton talks with Amy Julia Becker about rest as a healing practice given to us by God that leads to a spacious, generous life. Ruth is the author of many books, including her latest, Embracing Rhythms of Work and Rest.
“Ruth has spent over 20 years as a student, a practitioner and a leader in the area of Christian spirituality and spiritual formation. She served on the staff of several churches before founding the Transforming Center, a ministry dedicated to creating space for God to strengthen the souls of leaders, equipping them to lead transforming communities. Ruth’s voice is courageous, authentic and unique. She is bold in tackling the issues of the day while always inviting us into deep spiritual practices that draw us nearer to God.”
- Transforming Center on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/transformingctr/
- Transforming Center on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/transformingcenter
- Transforming Center on Twitter: https://twitter.com/transformingctr
- Ruth’s website: https://www.ruthhaleybarton.com
- Transforming Center website: https://transformingcenter.org
- Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership Podcast: https://transformingcenter.org/strengthening-the-soul-of-your-leadership-podcast/
On the Podcast:
- Ruth’s books
- Newest book: Embracing Rhythms of Work and Rest: From Sabbath to Sabbatical and Back Again
- Wayne Muller’s Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives
- Mark 2:27-28
- Podcast: Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership
- Podcast episode: Season 17: Episode 5 | The Power of Unplugging
“Sabbath begins with God.”
“When you’re under oppression, you don’t even have the personal freedom to say, ‘I’m going to rest.’ And God was giving [the Israelites], through the Sabbath, the gift of freedom.”
“The church’s schedule also works against Sabbath keeping.”
“We are made for rhythms, regular rhythms.”
“I feel so strongly about the Sabbath being a path to freedom from our bondage. And so it’s not so much about rules in my mind as it is about…noticing the places where I know I am in bondage to something, whether it’s my work, whether it’s social media, whether it’s the news cycle…what is it that that has me in bondage and how could I structure my Sabbath practice to help me to experience freedom and to live in freedom from that for 24 hours a week.”
“Sabbath—in its simplest description—it’s about rest, worship, and delight…those are the things we’re embracing on the Sabbath. The things we’re saying no to on the Sabbath would be work, busyness, anything that keeps us working hard mentally. So we’re taking a break from worry and stress and strife.”
“On the Sabbath, it actually creates some space to savor the goodness of the work that God’s given to us and to create space for some sense of satisfaction in our work. So rest in that way gives work its meaning because you step back from it and you have a sense of the deeper meaning of it and your partnership with God.”
“The goodness, the beauty, is in the rhythm. Not that work is better than rest and not that rest is better than work. The beauty is in the rhythm.”
“Sabbath as a practice is very healing.”
“Sabbath by definition is meant to create space for relationships to be strengthened and for conversations and a generosity of spirit that might not be there for us through the work week.”
“Do you have a way of life that works for you…where you feel that you’re living in healthy rhythms of work and rest, you feel like you have the spiritual practices that keep you open to the transforming work of God? You feel that your relationships are in good shape because you’re attending to them the way that you want to. You’re receiving God’s good gifts to you versus just rushing past them. Do you have a way of life that works?”
Season 6 of the Love Is Stronger Than Fear podcast connects to themes in my latest book, To Be Made Well, which you can order here! Learn more about my writing and speaking at amyjuliabecker.com.
*A transcript of this episode will be available within one business day, as well as a video with closed captions on my YouTube Channel.
Note: This transcript is autogenerated using speech recognition software and does contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.
Do you have a way of life that works for you like deeply? You know, where you, you feel that you’re living in healthy Rhythms of work and Rest, you feel like you have the spiritual practices that keep you open to the Transforming work of God? You feel that your relationships are in good shape because you’re attending to them the way that you want to. You’re receiving God’s goods gifts to you versus just rushing past them. Do you have a way of life that works?
Amy Julia (31s):
Hi Friends, I’m Amy Julia Becker And. This is Love is Stronger than Fear. A podcast about pursuing hope and healing in the midst of personal pain and social division. One of the things I’ve been thinking about is how there are ways that we can practice Healing. So what I mean by that is there are actions we can take and those actions can both prevent injury and illness and also help us heal from injury and illness. And they can do that in every part of our being. I’m not just talking about the physical injuries and illnesses that we sustain, but also just the ways in which we get hurt emotionally, spiritually, in all sorts of other ways. And one of those practices, I believe, is rest.
Amy Julia (1m 11s):
It’s a Healing practice and that practice has been given to us by God, but it’s also a real challenge for almost all of us to practice rest in our frantic and distracted world. So I’m really delighted to get to talk to one of my spiritual mentors on the page, Ruth Haley Barton. And I’m gonna talk to her today about her latest book, Embracing Rhythms of Work and Rest. So For, anyone who is longing to stop and rest and delight, but nevertheless feels stuck in a pattern of never enough time. This conversation is for you. And I will add that we are giving away one copy of Embracing Rhythms of Work and Rest.
Amy Julia (1m 53s):
So if you wanna enter to win, share this podcast episode on Instagram Facebook or Twitter. And be sure to tag me. Well, I am here today with someone I’ve been longing to get to talk to in person for quite some time with Ruth Haley Barton Ruth. Welcome to Love is Stronger Than Fear.
Ruth (2m 14s):
Thank you. It’s good to be with you.
Amy Julia (2m 16s):
Hmm. Well I have returned to many of your books again and again. It’s something, you know, I take your invitation to retreat with me when I go on retreat and you know, invitation to silence and solitude and all these different things. And you’ve now written a new book called Embracing, Rhythms of Work and Rest from Sabbath to Sabbatical and back again, And I. Probably could read a chapter of it about once a week in terms of reminding myself what it is that we’re talking about when we talk about this idea of Sabbath. But I thought we’d really start there today. I’d love to hear from you, for people who aren’t even familiar with the concept of Sabbath, or maybe it’s kind of just a religious word that doesn’t really have much meaning to it.
Amy Julia (2m 58s):
Could you talk, talk about what is Sabbath like, where does the concept come from? And then also I’d love to hear your story of how you came to be someone who practices Sabbath.
Ruth (3m 10s):
Thank you. Well, Sabbath begins with God, but it’s the interesting to notice that all of the great spiritual traditions include a practice like Sabbath or some way of having Rhythms of, of work and Rest. So Sabbath is, you know, quite universal in terms of its religious underpinnings. But of course it does come first of all from God in the creation story. In the Book of Genesis, God works for six days on the work of creation and then on the seventh day calls it good and rests. But actually a more accurate way to look at it is the word Shabbat actually means ceasing and stopping. So in some ways when we only emphasize the idea of rest, we’re not getting the whole picture because God doesn’t need to rest.
Ruth (3m 54s):
God is not limited in the ways that we as humans are. God didn’t need rest, but God chose to stop and seize his creative efforts on the seventh day. And in fact, in Jewish tradition, which is another part of the origin of the Sabbath, as a practice, God gave the, the practice of Sabbath to the Jewish people when he called them to be a people for himself, that it was also a, a way of giving them the gift of liberation. It was given really to a people who were living in oppression and who did not have the freedom to live life on their own terms. And so the Sabbath, when it was originally given to the children of Israel, was given as signs, symbol, and actual lived reality of their freedom from oppression.
Ruth (4m 38s):
Cuz when you’re in, when you’re under oppression, you don’t even have the personal freedom to say, I’m going to rest. And God was giving them actually through the Sabbath, the gift of freedom. And so I’m very stirred by that in our culture where I feel like we are in bondage quite a bit to many things at this moment. To think that the Sabbath in a very cont, in a very contemporary way, can help us to see some of the areas that were in bondage and give us the freedom to say, No, I’m not going to continue to be in bondage in that way anymore. So Sabbath is a deep spiritual concept that really transcends any one religious tradition.
Amy Julia (5m 17s):
I love that, that big picture and that ancient picture too, right? That still has so much relevance in our contemporary life. I’m now wanna zoom in a little bit just to your own story. As someone I know And I can relate to this, that you said you read a lot of books about the Sabbaths before you actually started incorporating that as a, as a practice that was meaningful to you. Could you write, just speak a little bit to that transition from being interested in this idea and actually practicing it?
Ruth (5m 47s):
Yeah, well, it’s been kind of quite a journey For me because I’m a pastor’s kid and so our family practiced Sabbath, but in a way that wasn’t very life giving. So I had some negative experiences with Sabbath when I was young, where it was a day where we couldn’t do some of the fun things that we like to do because I was a pastor’s kids Sundays were very busy, and as a, as the eldest daughter, I worked very hard alongside my mother to do hosting and cooking. And the, the roles were very stereotypical at that time. And so women did anything but rest on Sundays. And so I was really happy to kick that to the curb when I left to go off on my own to college.
Ruth (6m 26s):
And then finally to establish my own family, it was like, hmm, I didn’t love that. I’m not gonna do that. So even while I was leading people into many other spiritual practices like solitude and silence and retreat and self-examination, I was actively resisting the Sabbath and had actually put it in the two hard files. So in addition to the experiences in my early childhood that were not all that positive, then I, I also had the experience of just wanting to continue to achieve. I, I’m got a kind of an achievement bent and a high performance achiever sort of a person. And so Sundays were a very, very good day for getting stuff done and catching up from the week and, you know, making progress on writing projects or whatever.
Ruth (7m 8s):
And so I also then as a young adult, didn’t want to stop my performance oriented drivenness for God or anyone else for one day a week. And so there was a kind of grandiosity that I was living in thinking, well, you know, I don’t need that. That’s for retired people, that’s for people who have nothing else to do. It’s for people who aren’t very important. I don’t need the Sabbath. And so I resisted it for that set of reasons as well. But you know, at some way, some, somewhere along the way, in my early forties, I did start to feel some exhaustion from my overachieving ways. And that’s when I started connecting with books about Sabbath again and realizing, oh wow, there’s something really good here. And everything in me would long for that way of life a day to really unplug and to rest myself in God, to experience Delight in the gifts of God, to feel God loving me beyond my achievement or whatever else I thought I could do for him.
Ruth (8m 1s):
That was really, really intriguing and very inviting. But at that point, because of the way my life existed then I couldn’t imagine it. I had my own life. I was on staff at a church. So Sundays were very, very busy for us as a church staff. My three children were all athletes. And as you know, for whatever reason, whatever crazy reason, a lot of sports teams, traveling teams in particular now play on Sundays, which was discouraging. And then my husband’s a banker and his, you know, his bank was open on Sundays. I mean, it just seemed too hard then, you know, So I went from a place of kicking it to the curb to wanting it, but then feeling like it was too hard.
Ruth (8m 43s):
And so I had placed in a too hard file for quite some time, and then I had a biking accident that really stopped me in my tracks. And, and while I don’t believe that God caused the accident, I do believe that God used the accident to stop me and to help me to see my overachieving ways for how ridiculous they actually were. You know, I didn’t take a day off after this accident, even though I was bruised and battered and wrapped up and bandages and stuff. I went right back to work the next day and one of my friends said, Ruth, you know, you did just get hit by a car, you could take a day off. And I’m like, What is wrong with me? Of course I could, didn’t even occur to me that I could take a day off.
Ruth (9m 23s):
So, you know, then I did stop a little bit and say, Yeah, I do need to heal. And then God began to speak to me again, you know, in a really strong way. And there’s a quote from Wayne Mueller where he says that if we do not take our Sabbath, then our cancers and our illnesses and our accidents will become our Sabbath. And that really hit me at that point because I’d had an accident, And I did feel that God was using it to create some sabba space for myself.
Amy Julia (9m 51s):
I remember there was, there have been two seasons in my life where I have gotten sick on almost like a two month basis for oh seven to 10 days. Yeah. And not in a way, I mean, you know, strep or flu or even just a cold, but a cold. That was enough that it put me into bed. And when I read, I think that quotation was in the book, And I was like, Oh my gosh, that was me. Absolutely. Where my body basically said, Fine, if you’re not gonna actually take care of yourself, then we have to, we have to stop somehow. And I would much rather stop by actually choosing that deliberately rather than being wiped out and miserable in bed. But I, I do think it’s amazing how much we resist a need that is very natural and that on some level, on some bodily level we’re aware of, and yet we can really repress that, that desire and that need.
Amy Julia (10m 47s):
I’m curious for you, like what does that practically look like, like for, and what did it look like? Like when you worked in a church, was Sunday your Sabbath or did you take a different
Ruth (10m 56s):
Day? No, when I worked in a church, I didn’t, I didn’t have it. Okay. Because it, it seems so difficult. And it wasn’t until after I left staff and we began attending a church as, as a normal family, And I thought, Okay, now good, I can, I can try Sabbath keeping in our family, can maybe have a Sabbath. And that was when I discovered that the church’s schedule also works against Sabbath keeping. And that was my deepest sense of despair about Sabbath was that, oh my goodness, it’s not just the secular culture that keeps us from Sabbath keeping, it’s actually the church and the way that we’re doing church now, church has become a production and so busy, the church growth models often have us doing so many activities. And so this particular church, we had, you know, worship on Sunday mornings, but then, you know, all the youth group activities took place that day and we had kids in different ones, and so they were coming and going and Right, they did their congregational meetings and their choir practices and small groups and everything to the extent that we couldn’t even find two hours to put together for a dinner.
Ruth (11m 53s):
And that’s when I really realized that I needed and, and, and just how important it was to find communities that will help with this. Because if our churches are not doing this, I think it’s very, very difficult for those of us who are involved to be able to find our way if, if it’s not being led. So a real focus of this book is to speak directly to leaders and to say it’s part of your job to teach and to lead and to guide Sabbath communities to give the people in your, under your care, under your leadership a real opportunity to keep a Sabbath. And so now in the founding of the Transforming Center, I’ve been, you know, working here and, and you know, working as, as a leader here for 20 years.
Ruth (12m 35s):
And so we are a Sabbath community and it, and it really makes a difference. We order our life and our work around Sabbath keeping.
Amy Julia (12m 43s):
Will you tell me what that looks like? And not just, I mean, I’m curious for you personally, but I’m also curious as a community, what does that, what does that actually translate into? Well,
Ruth (12m 52s):
It means that for one thing, we don’t work on Sundays. And so And I mean, that may sound obvious, but I don’t think it really is in our culture. No. So that means we, like, for instance, we don’t email. And so there’s something that’s really blessed about knowing that while you’re Sabbath thing other people are too, and that you’re not gonna come out of your Sabbath into a deluge of emails because nobody, Yes, nobody’s doing any of that. And we’re very, very protective of our Sabbath Rhythms with each other. And one of the learnings that I had, you know, as the, the key leader, as the senior leader in this organization is that whatever I would do is what other people would follow relative to this in particular. So early on in our life together, when I was still finding my way with Sabbath keeping, I would sometimes think, Well, you know, I wanna get this off my head.
Ruth (13m 42s):
So on the Sabbath right, I would, I would do a little emailing or something to get it off my head. And then I realized, I started to realize, well, when I, as a senior leader email people, then they feel like they have to respond. And so then I have flipped everybody into a work mode by doing that. And it’s a very selfish thing For me to do, to get something off my head. I send emails to people on what should be their Sabbath, and then I, then I kick everybody up into gear. And so I began to realize that everything that I did instead around Sabbath would affect how our organization would experience this rhythm. And so we’re much more disciplined about it now, and I, I actually make a lot of my speaking decisions around that too.
Ruth (14m 26s):
If it’s gonna rob me of my Sabbath, I’ll often say no because I just, it’s become, the sabba has become too important to me and my overall life. My life has just not workable without a Sabbath.
Amy Julia (14m 37s):
And is that also, I mean, I’m just like, so that also means you don’t say, Oh, well I can do that And, I’ll just take my Sabbath on Wednesday.
Ruth (14m 44s):
Yeah, That’s so good. I’m really glad that you’ve mentioned that because I, I really don’t quite believe in a floating Sabbath, people call it a floating Sabbath. Do I believe in floating Sabbath? We do do our retreats, but we only do them. I think we have maybe 10 retreats a year. We, our, our, our retreats start on Sunday evenings because that works for our constituency, our pastors. That way they can preach or do whatever they need to do in church and then come to us on a Sunday evening. And we, and that’s the one time we do take a Sabbath day after that. So our retreats are Sunday through Tuesday, which means that the Wednesday following is a Sabbath for everyone who is working on retreat.
Ruth (15m 26s):
And that is really lovely and it works. But I will also say that there are limits because the body is used to the rhythm gets used to the rhythm. And so when it doesn’t happen every seven days, you are really pushing your body, you know, for the couple days that you’re off, you’re actually pushing yourself beyond, you know, what is the best for your human. Well, and
Amy Julia (15m 49s):
It’s interesting cuz even as you described that you’re still doing it communally, so it’s not a floating isolated Sabbath. Yeah, it’s a, I mean it’s a deliberate decision you’ve made as a community to both honor the people you’re serving through having pastors there and starting on a Sunday evening, but also to honor your need for Sabbath. So I just, Yeah, that’s even a little different than, you know, me as an individual saying, Oh, I’m just gonna speak. It doesn’t really matter when it is. That’s right. And then, you know, by myself, I’ll just go and have a
Ruth (16m 19s):
And have a Wednesday. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Well, And I appreciate you pointing that out because the other thing is that there’s the, one of the other reasons why I think trying hard to stay away from the floating Sabbath idea is that then you have to make a decision every single week. You know what I mean? Right. Whereas, you know, this is a pattern that we have established, so we’re not making additional decisions about it. Whereas when you let yourself have this floating Sabbath idea, then you’re always having to think about it. You know, when am I gonna have Sabbath this week? Or the speaking engagement comes, you know, speaking invitation comes and you say, Well I guess I could do it this way.
Ruth (17m 0s):
And it becomes a decision. Versus no, there’s a pattern that I’m in that my body, my mind, and my Soul can count on. And we as human beings, like in the being-ness of ourselves, the human being responds really well to Rhythms. So, you know, three meals a day is a rhythm. You know, sleeping at night is a rhythm, going on vacation at certain times of the year. Those are Rhythms and our bodies lean in and trust and, and are restful even within Rhythms if we can establish them. Cuz we’re just made for that. We are made for Rhythms, regular Rhythms.
Amy Julia (17m 36s):
And yes, And, I wanna get back to that in a minute to talk about the rhythm of work and Rest. Cause I think it’s really fascinating to have a book about the Sabbath with work and the title. But before we do that, just on this idea of the communal Sabbath, I’m thinking about people who are not a part of a congregation that is close to having leadership that leads towards what you’re describing. Like do, what advice do you have for listeners to this podcast who are longing for a Sabbath experience at May? Perhaps even like attempting to put that into practice, but don’t have at least right now, a community with whom to practice that.
Ruth (18m 17s):
Yeah. Well it does bring people to a real choice point. And I know different people who are making different choices around this. Some people have left churches that don’t support Sabbath rhythm because the Sabbath becomes so important to them as a life giving way of life, as a way of life that works. Especially once we have children and families that there’s a sense of we have to find a way of life that works. We just have to, or we’re not gonna make it. And so there might be a decision at times to leave a community because they don’t, there, they don’t support or to stay in that community, but to still refuse to do the things that the church does that don’t support a Sabbath rhythm.
Ruth (18m 57s):
So, for instance, I’ll keep attending here. And I will come to the, the worship service on Saturday night or Sunday, but then our family is going to enter into Sabbath. We’re not coming back for this set or the other thing. Yeah. Depending on, on somebody’s level of engagement and level of influence. I, I would suggest And I hope this book helps people do this, that people could bring this topic to the, to leadership. And if you are a leader, it’s easier cause you’ve already got a place of influence. But even if you’re not, like say if you’re a member, get a meeting with a pastor and start to talk about this. And even, I mean, I don’t want people to ever beat their pastors over the head with a Ruth Haley Barton book. But I, I do hope that this book is something that over time we could gently use to cast vision in our churches for churches that would order their lives around Sabbath ki I mean, I, I mean I’m praying for that.
Ruth (19m 47s):
Like it’s actually an intent that I have for this work is that whole communities would read and try to practice
Amy Julia (19m 54s):
Together. Yeah. And you do a great job, I think, of laying out an actual process as opposed to just like, Hey guys, change everything you’re doing and reorder your Rhythms. It’s like, no, talk about this. Pray about this as a pastor or whatever leader, like you would need to actually practice this for a while. You need to think through what are the implications for our elder board or our church counselor, whomever, How do we deal with emergencies that come up on a Sunday? What does it mean to respond to the real needs of the people? Then choose a date when you’re going to actually as a community do this and then say, Okay, we’re gonna try it once a month. Like I just, you have such a gentle and practical, like pragmatic path that really does For me.
Amy Julia (20m 38s):
What it brings up is all of the excuses I make anyway. Yeah. Where I’m like, but it still won’t work. Let me tell you why, and I’m thinking of this quotation from you. This is in early on in the book you wrote to practice Sabbath. We need to know what we are in bondage to what has us in its grip. And that is precisely the thing we should cease. We need to know what wears us out and what wears us down, what robs us of our joy and peace and cease that because that is exactly what God wants to free us from. Can you say a little bit more about that sense of like what we’re in bondage to and what we need to cease from and you know, whether there are kind of rules for how to practice the Sabbath or if it is more of a, you have to discern that individually.
Amy Julia (21m 26s):
Yeah. Can you speak to that
Ruth (21m 28s):
A little bit? Well, I think that we sell Sabbath short when we only talk about it as resting. And we don’t talk about the fact that really in its very essence, it’s, it’s a much more cutting edge practice than that. It’s much more challenging practice than that in that it confronts the places where we are in bondage and, and in our lives. And God is saying, I have a way out for you. The Sabbath is your way out of bondage. And I’m, I’m glad that you saw that theme and called it out because I feel so strongly about the Sabbath being a path to freedom from our bondage. And so it’s not so much about rules in my mind as it is about what you just read, noticing the places where I know I am in bondage to something, whether it’s my work, whether it’s social media, whether it’s the news cycle, the 24 hour news cycle, you know, what is it that that has me in bondage and what, how could I structure my Sabbath practice to help me to experience freedom and to live in freedom from that for 24 hours a week.
Ruth (22m 31s):
And so in some ways there are, I mean there are guidelines, I might call ’em guidelines that Sabbath in its simplest, in its simplest description, it’s about rest, worship, and Delight. Those are the three things. I mean, yes. And so those are the things we’re Embracing on. The Sabbath the things we’re saying no to on the Sabbath would be work busyness, anything that keeps us working hard mentally. So we’re taking a break from worry and stress and strife. And so, you know, we, we just, we need to look at our activities and say where do they, where, what categories does it fit in?
Ruth (23m 14s):
And then the in the invitation is to say no to the things that have to do with, with work and worry and strife and stress and to say yes to rest, worship and Delight. So there, you know, some of that will be personal, And, I, And, I, personal discernment. Like, so for instance, sometimes people will ask, Well what about gardening or mowing the lawn? Right? You know, And I find gardening in particular to be something that’s extremely life giving And I actually save it for the Sabbath because being outside in the dirt with the plants, I don’t know, I forget about everything else and just, I’m just present to the garden. And I’m not even a gardener. I mean, I, all I know is that there’s lessons, there’s Beauty, there’s the whole cycle, the whole life cycle being in the garden at different times of the year.
Ruth (24m 2s):
But for somebody else, you know, say you’re a farmer, well then for you working in a garden would feel like your work or mowing, you know, some men or women say, you know, being on the mower with the, the, the, the sound of the mowing. I don’t, I’m, I’m in my own world, it feels restful at solitude and silence or maybe for somebody else it’s a chore that you’re checking off. Only you know that. Right. Only you know what it is for you and you have to discern it. And I,
Amy Julia (24m 31s):
Remember I think it was Andy Crouch a long time ago, I heard him talking about how he is not typically responsible for dinner in their home and, but he actually loves cooking. And so one the joys for him on the Sabbath is preparing a meal for his
Ruth (24m 47s):
Amy Julia (24m 47s):
Yeah. Whereas And I guess his wife was cooking dinner. I don’t know, I don’t remember. I, but presumably for her it would be like one more aspect of my work being repeated on the day of rep stopping and Delight. And that was a very helpful framing. For me, And I think it goes along with what you
Ruth (25m 3s):
Were describing. It really does.
Amy Julia (25m 5s):
It’s really a matter of discernment. And For me, I’m just gonna add my own to your list of things we might be in bondage to and For me. There really is a bondage to productivity and to the sense of just feeling,
Ruth (25m 18s):
Amy Julia (25m 18s):
Become measure of like getting some identity from getting things done and so ceasing to get things done and knowing that on some level they will be piled up, you know, for, for the next day. And yet saying, and oh my gosh, I get to Delight in this right now anyway. Because you also write a bit a bit about the anxiety that can come actually from that, that sometimes when we begin practicing the Sabbath, there’s actually a discomfort. Absolutely. It’s not like we just go straight into this mode of rest and relaxation because it’s such an a departure from, for many of us, the way we’ve been living.
Ruth (26m 2s):
Yes. I’m really glad that you named that because that’s, that’s, that’s something that we need to be prepared to face when we first start practicing Sabbath, is how uncomfortable it is not to be producing, not to be able to checking, be checking things off lists and making progress on things. And you’ll have to face, you know, you’ll, you’ll, you’ll feel your addiction, you’ll feel the addictive nature of it when you first start to practice. And we need to be prepared for that. And it’s subtle, which is why we need to name it. You know, I think many people, until they try to practice a Sabbath or any sort of significant solitude in silence, might be surprised at how uncomfortable it is and how hard it is to name it as, Oh, I’m really addicted to noise, to words, to activity, to productivity, to achievement.
Ruth (26m 48s):
I don’t know who I am when I’m not achieving. I just wanna jump outta my skin when I’m not checking things off the list. Wow. This rest thing is not soft at all. It’s really, really hard actually. You know,
Amy Julia (26m 60s):
And yet ultimately life giving.
Ruth (27m 1s):
Amy Julia (27m 3s):
So let’s get to this idea of a rhythm of work and Rest, in what way is work related to the Sabbath? And not in the, simply in the sense of ceasing your work, but having a rhythm of work and Rest.
Ruth (27m 15s):
Yeah, well I was insistent that the word work be in the title because I think that we want to know that our work has value. And the truth is our work does have value because in our work, whatever we do as Christian people, hopefully we are able to experience ourselves as partnering with God in God’s purposes in the world. That, and it’s not about being in official vocational Christian ministry at all, but that there’s something about our work if we’re a lawyer or a doctor or a filmmaker, or that there, there’s a sense in which hopefully we’re doing something good in the world and can connect our work with God’s purposes in the world and can experience God’s pleasure on us as we work and God’s enjoyment of partnering with us and our enjoyment of partnering with God.
Ruth (28m 3s):
And that in some ways work gives rest its meaning because we wouldn’t even, rest wouldn’t have any definition at all if it wasn’t for the fact that we are working the other six days. And so, you know, work actually gives rest its meaning. And part of God’s, what God did in, in God’s own resting was to stand back and call it good, you know, to survey his work and to feel the feelings of well-being and achievement and accomplishment in the best sense of the word. Being proud of your work and feeling good about your work. Even God did that. God created space to feel good about the work and the creativity.
Ruth (28m 46s):
And so on the Sabbath, I also find that Sabbath can be a time to reflect on, not to engage in our work, but to reflect on our work and to savor the goodness of our work. And to say that was good. You know, like that was a, that was good work and, and to feel satisfaction about our work and on the Sabbath, it actually creates some space to savor the goodness of the work that God’s given to us and to create space for some sense of satisfaction in our work. So rest in that way gives work its meaning because you step back from it and you, you have a sense of the deeper meaning of it and your partnership with God. You might reflect on your work week and do a bit of an examine and you know, ask God to show you where God was present in your work, meeting you in your work, helping you in your work, giving wisdom to you in your work, maybe even doing more and bringing forth more fruit than your actual work could have done on its own.
Ruth (29m 40s):
And really letting that be a part of the celebration of the Sabbath too is to savor the work and that you have work that satisfies and provides and all of that. So it is to me, the goodness, the Beauty is in the rhythm. Not that work is better than rest and not that rest is better than work. The Beauty is in the rhythm.
Amy Julia (29m 59s):
I love that. I’m curious to, this is kind of changing topics a little bit, but I was working on a book about Healing for a number of years and really looking at the Healing narratives in the gospels as a result of that. And one of the, you know, real through lines is Jesus Healing on the Sabbath. And it’s almost as if he’s insisting, I mean he is, he’s insisting on Healing, on the Sabbath And. I’m curious whether you have any thoughts about why Jesus who practiced the Sabbath was nevertheless insistent about Healing people on the Sabbath. And these are people who theoretically could have waited until the next day. Right. It wasn’t a life-threatening has to happen in this moment.
Amy Julia (30m 41s):
And that’s why the Jewish authorities were upset with him for doing it because it was like, you could do it tomorrow and they’d still be okay, but, and he was like, No, no, no. Healing happens now. It starts now.
Ruth (30m 52s):
Yeah. Well there’s so many ways to go at that question. First of all, I do think that Jesus was actively redefining the Sabbath and rescuing it from the legalism that it had developed into, in, in among the Israeli light people where it was down to the, the like all the rules, you know, all the rules about Sabbath, that it did need to be reframed and almost rescued. I guess the word rescued is the word that keeps coming to me. It had to be rescued from legalism, which is unfortunately what we as humans tend to do, isn’t it? We tend to take, think these beautiful things and then make something legalistic out of it. So to me it’s just so interesting that Jesus practices Sabbath and he doesn’t like give big huge teachings on it, but through his own activity, through his own engagement with Sabbath, he actually starts to redefine it.
Ruth (31m 43s):
Yeah. And give his own perspective on it. So when he says that the Sabbath was, I always get this wrong, the Sabbath was, man was not created for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was created for humankind. Yeah, yeah. That, that Jesus is saying there, this is supposed to be a really good thing for humans, right. Sabbath is supposed to be a really good thing for humans. And so if your neighbor’s ox falls into the ditch, you can help your neighbor get the ox out of the ditch. That part of what the Sabbath actually is, is for a generosity of spirit towards other human beings. And that that sometimes these opportunities for doing good things for each other come to us on the Sabbath.
Ruth (32m 26s):
And so I have discovered in my own experience with it that, that I have a more generous spirit on the Sabbath cause I’m not so tired, you know? And so I have more space for just being human with other humans, And I. I think that that’s what’s what Jesus is sort of modeling saying, you know, the Sabbath is for humans. It’s to make the human existence better. And so, and not to mention the fact that I think Healing as a practice is very, or Sabbath as a practice is very Healing. It heals us on our sets of levels that we’re not even aware of.
Amy Julia (33m 1s):
I was gonna ask you about that because that’s one of the things I had thought about a lot was almost this sense that Healing belongs on the Sabbath because the Sabbath is a practice, a Healing practice. And I think we like literally know that to be biologically true.
Ruth (33m 16s):
Absolutely. We do
Amy Julia (33m 17s):
That tremendous amount of Healing that actually happens in our bodies when we sleep, especially. That’s right. But even just from resting. But I think there’s also a sense of when we Delight, when we actually take a moment to slow down, to not be producing, there’s some emotional and relational and spiritual Healing that can happen in that as well. And then I wondered also about a social Healing that happens because of the Sabbath. I mean that’s, that’s one question I had for you is just whether you think there, I mean there is a social dimension to the Sabbath. Yes. You’ve talked about that a little bit.
Amy Julia (33m 58s):
But in what way might practicing Sabbath be wedded to personal and social Healing? I’m just curious if you have any more thoughts on that. Mm,
Ruth (34m 9s):
Yes I do. I mean, I think that Sabbath by definition is meant to create space for relationships to be strengthened and for conversations and a generosity of spirit that might not be there for us through the work week. You know, And we can even save conversations that should be more substantive or more meaningful or go deeper or might be hard. Save those for the time when we are more rested and have more bandwidth for the emotion of being in relationship with others in, in really meaningful ways.
Ruth (34m 49s):
I think also, and this is a big, huge, big, huge issue that the Sabbath as a practice, if we were to embrace it communally and embrace it in the human, in the human experience more broadly, that the whole idea of creating culture and creating economies and creating communal practices that support everyone in getting a Sabbath versus just the privileged few, right, And I think a real practice of the Sabbath and a real digging into what it is and how it was given and why will take us to a place of consideration about how can we order our life together in the human community to make sure everyone gets a Sabbath.
Ruth (35m 33s):
And those are very big, you know, huge issues with huge ramifications for us.
Amy Julia (35m 40s):
And that’s, I’ve heard, well I guess I should mention this, for anyone listening to this podcast that you have a podcast and it has right now is actually focused on the book and going chapter by chapter with different guests to discuss all of these different topics. And I am listening along with wrapped attention and highly recommend it. So we’ll make sure to put the show notes a link there. But honestly, I will also say, when I discovered your podcast, it was well underway, And I, my husband And I both went back and listened I think to every single episode because yeah, it, it’s a funny thing cuz you think you’re getting like the cliff notes to your books because you’re talking through all of your books, but then you just say, Well gosh, I gotta go read the book.
Amy Julia (36m 19s):
So it’s a, it’s great. It’s funny.
Ruth (36m 21s):
Yeah. Yeah. And this one, this season that we’re in right now with, that’s based on this book, what we’ve realized is that it actually takes you beyond the book in terms of the conversations that take us even further into some of the topics that I just touched on. And this being one of them, a Sabbath economy or communities that because they do it communally, are able to support each other in a Sabbath practice in many different ways.
Amy Julia (36m 50s):
So, Well, and one of the things I’ve heard you say a couple of times this season on your podcast is that one of the, and you write about this a bit, one of the pushbacks you got to the book was this idea of Sabbath as a, a privilege that you, that some people really don’t have that option. And, I think that’s something to really pay attention to. But it also, the flip side of that is that practicing Sabbath, it seems to me can also be an act of justice. Yeah. In the sense of I am not asking anyone else to work on my behalf today. So I mean that is, that’s actually For me. The first thing I have done, I did, this was years ago, I was in seminary and had to write a paper about the 10 Commandments and noticed where the Sabbath commandment comes and that it really is this hinge commandment between what it means to be in right relationship with God and what it means to be in right relationship with our neighbors.
Amy Julia (37m 38s):
And so it’s, you know, the Sabbath commandment comes twice and in one of the lists it says, because of this order of creation that God created and then rested, and then in the other one it basically says, because God liberated you out of bondage and make sure that you are the aliens living in your land so that anyone who’s not Jewish and your enslaved people also get a day of
Ruth (38m 1s):
Rest. Not to mention the donkeys and the, you know, and the animals and like even the animals are supposed to get a Sabbath, like in SBA economy,
Amy Julia (38m 10s):
The earth is meant to get a rest in the sense of, I just think about the, we don’t do this, but there’s Right. A Jewish practice of not using electricity That’s right on the Sabbath. We do actually, I mean I really have tried to not use the dishwasher and the washing machine just in both in terms of my own housework, but also in terms of just acknowledging a day of rest for the creation and for other people. So not going shopping on the Sabbath, And, I get it, that that’s just symbolic. It’s not going to like shut down my local cvs, For me not, you know, on Sundays For me not to go there. And yet there’s something that attunes me to some of the injustices of our society.
Amy Julia (38m 51s):
Yes. I can, as a person of privilege take a day off without it having ramifications And I wish that were true for more people. But I, I just think the practice of Sabbath can be an act of privilege. But it seems to me it can also be an act of justice to say I’m not asking anyone to work on my behalf today.
Ruth (39m 9s):
Yeah. Yep. Absolutely.
Amy Julia (39m 12s):
And that I, again, I think, you know, at least on, it’s a, so much of what we do, I think as people of faith are, they’re just signs, right? They’re signs of, they’re pointing towards the world that God would want for us. They may or may not actually get us there. They certainly won’t immediately as a whole, but signs are still worth a lot. Yeah. In our own lives. But even for the people around us in terms of saying, you know, here’s, here’s where we could be headed together to a place of rest and wholeness and connection and Delight as well as a place of, as you just said, meaningful work. So well as we kind of come to a close of this conversation, I was just thinking about the, something you write in the book that Sabbath is more than one day of the week.
Amy Julia (39m 59s):
It is a way of life. And I wanted to land there and just ask you to explain a little bit of what it means for Sabbath to be a way of life. And also to speak to why we would want to live that way. I guess in contrast to like what is, what is the other way of life, right? Like what is, what is the other way we live and why would we want this one?
Ruth (40m 18s):
Yeah. Well I think the other way we live is what we’re most of us are experiencing right now, which is just galloping from one thing to the next and wearing ourselves out and wearing ourselves down. And I. I think that we, if you were to ask many, many people these days, do you have a way of life that works for you, like deeply, you know, where you, you feel that you’re living in healthy Rhythms of work and Rest you feel like you have the spiritual practices that keep you open to the trans work Transforming work of God. You feel that your relationships are in good shape because you’re attending to them the way that you want to, you’re receiving God’s goods gifts to you versus just rushing past them.
Ruth (40m 59s):
Do you have a way of life that works? I think many people today would still say no. Right? I don’t, I have not discovered a way of life that works yet. And so the Sabbath to me as I, you know, I’ve, I’ve maybe said here is that it is the kingpin to me of a life well lived in God. It is the absolute kingpin of a way of life that works and For me. What I understand is that Sabbath doesn’t happen by accident, especially not in our culture. It only comes with a great deal of intentionality. And the whole week needs to be lived in such a way as to make it possible for us to have a Sabbath. So it means that our paid work needs to be contained within the five work days that we have. Hopefully it’s five, there needs to be a sixth day.
Ruth (41m 39s):
The significance of the sixth day is, you know, cannot be overstated because you have to have a day to do the work of being human. Cuz there’s work associated with being human. There’s the dry cleaning and the car wash and the shopping and the wedding planning and the moaning of the lawn and you know, there’s all of that and it takes time. And so I think what most people do on, if they’re not clearly thinking about Sabbath, maybe there is a seventh day that’s slightly different, but it’s a day for catching up on all those things. And that’s not the same thing as resting. It’s just absolutely not the same thing as resting and Unplugging. And so the sixth day really has to be lived very intentionally for the seventh day to even be possible.
Ruth (42m 20s):
It has to be cultivated for the work of being human. And so ideally And I, I know this probably doesn’t work for everyone, but I think ideally to have two days together, the sixth and the seventh day together, so the sixth day is seen as preparation for the seventh day is, is pretty important where you do get the food in the house and you do make progress on your human things and you do know what needs to be done on that day so that on the seventh day we can actually truly unplug and cease work and Rest and Delight and worship. It takes planning, it does not happen by accident. And so your whole, your whole week is oriented towards that seventh day. And that’s definitely the way I experiencing it.
Ruth (43m 2s):
I experience it now, there are other ways that we could talk about a Sabbath way of life, but, or a Sabbath life. But that maybe is enough for right now.
Amy Julia (43m 13s):
Yeah. Thank you. And I will say, because we didn’t get to talk about this in this conversation, but the Unplugging is a literal, I mean, it’s kind of a figurative way to talk about resting, but it’s also these days a pretty literal one as far as as the role that technology plays. And I just listened to the episode of your podcast about the role of technology, And I don’t remember the name of the woman you spoke with who was a Jewish practitioner of Sabbath that wrote a book about being on 24 6. And so for any listener who’s kind of starting to say, This is attractive to me, but what about, you know, what about that?
Ruth (43m 51s):
Amy Julia (43m 52s):
Yeah. That was a really helpful, I mean even just, I didn’t know, I, I have a note on my desk today to deal with my Apple settings because the fact that I could like still use the camera on the Sabbath without actually getting notifications for all these other things, I’m like, Ooh, that’s a great idea. Yeah. Like, I didn’t know that. So, so there are just some rich resources of course in your book, but also in the Podcast that I just wanna remind people about. And also just, I think my sense is that when we trust God enough, I mean it’s such an ironic thing that to, there’s a sense in which practicing Sabbath is an act of trust, and yet it’s also receiving a gift.
Amy Julia (44m 37s):
And then once that cycle starts to actually be in place. So we’ve gotten through the discomfort and we’ve started to believe that this is possible and it’s starting to feel like, yes, this is something I want and not just something that I’m, you know, rarely trying out. It seems to me that that would permeate the rest of our days as well. Yeah. In terms of even the five minutes of being able to feel the restless energy or the anxiety or the, you know, whatever it is, and pause and enter into that place of Delight and belovedness and being with God rather than doing for God even in the midst of a workday, I guess I feel as though that Sabbath way would, would permeate my consciousness.
Amy Julia (45m 25s):
Which again, I, I’ve had tastes of that, I’m not gonna say all the way there at all, but, but that would be what, it’s what I think about when I think about a way of life that there’s actually a way in which that seventh day is permeating all the
Ruth (45m 40s):
Others. Yes, yes. And you can bring, I call them Sabbath pauses. You can bring Sabbath pauses into your everyday ordinary life. And because you’ve practiced this deep resting, you can actually get there for a few minutes, like between one meeting and the next or something like that. And you, you, you get more practice at at at dropping in to a, a more restful stance and posture even in some of the shorter times that we have, even things like driving in the car, we can make the decision to not turn on, you know, to not make phone calls all the time or not turn on a podcast and allow a little bit of a drive to be a place of Sabbath rest where I’m gonna rest myself in God right now versus having stimulation or using it to check things off the list there then becomes all sorts of ways that we can discover about how to bring that Sabbath rest into our everyday existence.
Ruth (46m 34s):
And it’s really encouraging, can change the quality of our days, that’s for sure.
Amy Julia (46m 39s):
Well, Ruth, thank you so much for your wisdom and even just for that encouragement that there are real ways to bring Sabbath into our weekly Rhythms, but also even into our daily Rhythms. I think that will be just helpful for so many people both individually and communally. So really appreciate it.
Ruth (46m 57s):
Thank you. Oh yes, you’re welcome. Thanks for such a good conversation.
Amy Julia (47m 3s):
Thanks as always for listening to this episode of Love is Stronger Than Fear. I will say once again that We are giving away a copy of Embracing Rhythms of Work and Rest. And if you want To enter to win that, just share this podcast episode on Instagram Facebook or Twitter and be sure to tag me when you do that. Thank you also to Jake Hanson for editing the Podcast to Amber Beery, my social media coordinator. And to all of you, as you go into your, your day to day, I hope you’ll carry with you the peace that comes from believing that love is stronger than fear.
Giveaway: We are giving away a copy of Embracing Rhythms of Work and Rest. To enter to win, share this podcast episode on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, and be sure to tag me! The contest will end on Sunday, November 6, at 11:59 pm ET.
Learn more with Amy Julia:
- To Be Made Well: An Invitation to Wholeness, Healing, and Hope
- S5 E22 | Disability and the Speed of Love with Dr. John Swinton
- S5 E19 | Resting in a Restless World with Kate Rademacher
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