Our church is going through a church-wide study based on a book called Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero. I was really skeptical when we started it. Partly because the title sounded funny and was hard to remember but also because it sounded like another me-centered study, which I’m always suspicious of.
I have, pleasantly, mostly been wrong in my suspicion. Both Mark and I have learned a lot from this study and have had some conversations that probably wouldn’t have been unearthed for a long time if this book hadn’t brought them to the surface.
Last week we read the chapter titled ‘Discovering the Rhythms of the Daily Office and Sabbath.’ The subtitle is ‘Stopping to Breathe the Air of Eternity.’ In my week of test-taking during which I did little other than read textbooks, this chapter was definitely needed.
True, I didn’t read it throughout the week, letting the ideas soak in. I read the whole chapter quickly in the 20 minutes before leaving for church Sunday morning. But even in those 20 minutes of skimming I was convicted.
The chapter has two main premises. One is that we as Christians should be stopping to be with God throughout the day. The ‘devotions’ that most of us U.S. Christians have for about 15 minutes once a day doesn’t cut it. For one, most of us are focused on getting ‘filled up’ for the day, not on who God is. For another, once we snap the Bible closed after those 15 minutes, most of us don’t give God a second thought for the rest of the day except for a quick prayer over our lunch at work. Scazzero calls Christians to task and says that’s wrong. We can’t expect to grow into healthy ‘little Christs’ without an intent focus on being with God, on loving God for who He is and focusing on Him before focusing on our daily lives. That’s what the ‘daily office’ Scazzero describes is all about: stopping periodically, if for no more than a few minutes, to focus on God and be with God.
The second premise of this chapter is that Christians do not treat the Sabbath like God intends us to treat the Sabbath. So many of us long for snow days. (I’ve actually had conversations with coworkers in the past week, wishing for a mammoth snowfall so we would all be required to stay home for a day, so this really hit home.) Scazzero argues that the Sabbath should be like a snow day for us. We should feel obligated to stay home and relax, or go out and relax, whatever makes us relaxed. But, our Sabbath snow days should also have the element of stopping to be with God. Otherwise, the Sabbath is just a secular day off.
Anyway, this chapter was convicting to me for a couple reasons. Number one, I leaned waaaaaaay too far in the direction of studying and found myself drifting into Type-A Study-Til-You-Drop Land during the past month or so. Maybe it was needed; I won’t know my scores beyond pass/fail until early April. But still. Definitely no Sabbaths for me during that time, and definitely no Daily Office. I was too focused on remembering the different theories of ESL education and Kohlberg’s theory on moral development.
Looking ahead to the next two years of teaching, I’m concerned. If that’s how I was for test-taking, what will I be like when I feel like I have the responsibility of educating a class of kids? How can I find balance? How can I take time out for God throughout the day? How can I keep a Sabbath for resting? How can I take care of my marriage and other relationships, for that matter?
I don’t really have an answer to these questions right now. I just wanted to put them out there. And I’m much more likely to mull them over a little bit if I put them up on a blog because I have the accountability (if only in my head) of knowing that other people will be reading my questions too and then watching to see how the answers play out.
I hope I can find a balance. I’ve thought about starting a Sabbath habit this week already. And both Mark and I have committed to taking time out to spend with God at least two times a day. That’s all great, and I’m glad we’re doing it, but the true test, I’m sure, will begin the first day I step into my classroom.