Sabbath Rest

My Dad says that he always knew where to look for me if I ever wandered off while he was shopping.  He’d go to the book section, and there I’d be, nose in a book, oblivious to everything else.  My Dad didn’t get anxious if I went missing because he had a good idea where to find me, he could predict what would attract my attention and get me to wander away from the family.

What about you?  If your kids wander away from you in the store where would you most likely find them?  Candy aisle?  Hunting and fishing section?  Hair and nail salon? Electronics department?  Looking at clothes, music, or with me reading books?

If your child wandered away from your family, what would be the thing that tempted them and got them lost?  A lot of parents are afraid that their children will be enticed by drugs, alcohol, and/or sex and that as a result their child will be lost to them forever.

And so parents keep their kids busy.  Jam-packed schedules.  No time for reckless behavior.  It’s not in the schedule.  Guess what else is not in those over-filled schedule?  Sabbath rest.

King Solomon went to the temple three times a year to worship God (1 Kings 9:25).  We know that he prayed at least two times in his life because those prayers are recorded in the Bible (1 Kings 3 & 8).  What if that’s it?  What if that was the extent of Solomon’s relationship with God?

It would be the equivalent of going to church for Christmas Eve, Easter, and Mother’s Day and seeking God’s help twice in your entire life.  That’s not a very robust spiritual life, is it?

Maybe that’s why Solomon wandered away from God at the end of his life and caused the Israelites to do the same.  This would explain why wise King Solomon couldn’t stand up to the peer-pressure that he experienced when he became an older adult.  

The people closest to him wore him down.  He gave in and let them build shrines to foreign gods, even going so far as to allow parents to sacrifice their child at the altar of Molech.

If Solomon did not have an interior life that could withstand exterior pressure, that would explain why he caved.  If God was a stranger to him, then worshipping idols would not have felt wrong.  It’s what everyone around Solomon was doing.  He was just following the crowd.

Solomon filled up the hollowness inside him with the false promises of fake gods.  When what he really needed was not to surround himself with more and more worthless shrines; what he needed was a habit of Sabbath rest-- a regular practice of time spent alone in the presence of the true God.  That would have protected him from the lure of the counterfeits.

Our children do not need more shrines built in celebration of their accomplishments.  They need to learn how to rest their souls in the Lord of the Sabbath.  A study published in the Journal of School Health found that the majority of American youth lack the personal skills of time management and stress control.  They don’t know how to wind down; someone has to teach them these skills the researchers concluded.

I had the chance to visit with a teenager who comes to Open Hearts Kitchen.  I’ve noticed a change in his demeanor from last year to this.  Last year he had a wall up around him.  He was kind of prickly and defensive.   Now there’s an openness about him.  Those walls have been knocked down.  And he seems more at peace with himself.  

I asked him what caused the change and he credited music for the difference in his personality.  He stopped listening to one style of music when someone introduced him to Christian radio.  Thanks to contemporary Christian songs and the person who recommended them, he’s got a new inward relationship with God and it’s changing his outward behavior.  He’s found his Sabbath Rest.

Help your child find the thing that allows them to feel connected to that which is sacred.  Encourage them to schedule time for that activity every day or at least once a week on the Sabbath.  I fear that without that rest our children will cave.  They will fall for the false gods of today that promise happiness by means of money, fame, possessions, or power.

Help your children cultivate an interior life that becomes a core of strength within them that is unswayed by the petty grasping of idols that preoccupies the time of too many Americans.  You can do that by first caring for the needs of your own soul.  Making time in your schedules for the things that help you reach out to the Holy, that help you tear down ego shrines.

And then talk to your kids about what gave your soul a Sabbath rest when you were a child and teenager and works for you.  Is it music?  Is it a book?  Time in nature?  Maybe it’s receiving communion and kneeling at the railing as a family.  Share that part of yourself with your kids, yes even your adult kids.

Your relationship with God and your children’s relationship with God is our priority as a church.  The church is here first and foremost to help folks follow the example of Jesus, who could be found in his Father’s house.  Who grew in wisdom and in divine and human favor throughout his time on Earth (Luke 2: 41-52).  In church, we support each other as we each identify the false idol that we are bowing down to and serving, reject those things, cut them out of our lives and schedule in place of those things our Sabbath Rest.