I realized I needed Sabbath while in language school. I studied Monday to Saturday, with homework and practice at the market filling my days along with basic survival in a foreign country. Sundays were sort of language days too, especially in the beginning when trying to follow a sermon in Khmer took great concentration and effort, straining for any word I recognized and tucking unfamiliar words away in a little notebook to ask my teacher about later. After 6 months of this routine, I was exhausted both physically and emotionally. I needed to make changes to find a better rhythm that allowed space to rest, reflect and recharge. We didn’t have a specific day set aside necessarily, but found moments in the midst of the other things we had going on. Friday mornings when our school schedule allowed, we filled our souls at the House of Prayer during a time of listening prayer led by a wonderful, Spirit-filled woman who took us straight into God’s presence. Friday evenings homework was banned and we found a new movie on Amazon to give our brains a break. We stopped studying on Saturdays and made those hours up during the week so we could have extra time for talking with our families, sitting and reading, or heading to the swimming pool and gym.
Sabbath in the village looked a little different. After a week of leaving our doors open to welcome in the noise of the street, curious neighbors and the wandering chicken or dog, Sundays we kept the doors locked, stayed home from the market, and let ourselves be. It was a day to fill up on English, in the form of sermons from home and familiar worship music. Sometimes if I was brave and let my heart express the emotions of the week, I closed the door to our storage room and danced before the King in worship. Other times when the darkness felt too heavy and my weary heart couldn’t take it, I just crawled back in bed with my headphones in and let the tears fall. Sunday was our day for special baking, pulling out precious supplies of chocolate chips and butter, figuring out how to make favorite recipes paleo and enjoying the fruit of our labor along side a decaf coconut milk mocha or pumpkin spice latte. Our habit in the evenings was smoothies and nuts, tucking ourselves inside our mosquito net for a movie or the latest Downton Abbey.
I often longed to meet with other believers, for a place to fellowship and worship in any language. But now in our new place sometimes I miss those Sundays. I felt free to just let the day be set apart, to feast instead of fasting, to rest instead of striving. Taking that full day gave me the boost I needed to start a new week, to keep going. Sabbath takes intentionality, planning sometimes so errands are finished and space is made for the quiet, the rest, the play. Sabbath is about finding out what brings God-breathed joy to our hearts and nourishing those places. It means a rhythm of working hard and pulling back, emptying out and being filled back up. Sabbath looks scarcity in the face and says, “You’ve worked enough. You are enough, what you do does not define you. God is enough to fill you. There’s enough time to take a break, to linger over a cup of coffee and think and process the past week. There are enough supplies in the cupboard to make something special”. God must have known we would need His permission, so He modeled it from the very beginning when He rested after He had thrown the stars in place and brought forth man from dirt. He marveled and enjoyed, declaring all that He had made good. He invites us to enjoy too, as we look at His creation and the work that He has done through us and around us in the week. My heart longs for Sabbath, and I am slowly finding that rhythm again for this season.