I AM: Rest over Ritual

My husband and I learned during a Dave Ramsey course that he is the free-spirit and I am the nerd when it comes to our financial/household personalities. I like structure, routines, boundaries, and organization. You know, the fun stuff. This plays out in my spiritual practices as well. I love Bible plans and devotionals outlined by days and lessons. I love proceeding through my time with God in a certain order each morning. This year, for example, I am starting my day with a new Bible-in-one-year plan (new-to-me at least), the M’Cheyene plan. And now that I’ve started, it will probably be with me every day this year.

But the struggle for nerds like me is, as they say, real. I have to constantly ask God to examine my heart and make sure I am not performing rituals but using these activities and times as a way to get more of Him and more of His presence. I want to know Christ better this year, not just know how to do “Christian stuff” better.

It is both comforting and a recurrent warning to see the theme of Sabbath and ritual come up throughout the gospel of John as we studied the I Am statements and signs of Jesus with ByTheWell4God in January. The religious leaders of the day objected multiple times to Christ’s healing work on the Sabbath. They were more concerned with following the letter of the law than loving the author of the law and marveling in His power and majesty. They were so close to Jesus and missed Him–missed what He was doing.

We see their struggle not once but several times in this gospel as a reminder that this struggle is indeed real. God addressed this multiple times in the NT, because He knew this would be a constant tension within the church–being the church rather than just doing church. The creation of a Sabbath observation was to make room for a protected space for rest in Him. To snuggle in close with Him and hear the rhythm of His heart. For Jesus, being in tune with the rhythm of His Father’s heart meant healing on the Sabbath from time to time. Yes, it represented His authority. Yes, it reminds us that with Jesus we are saved through Him, not by the law. But it also demonstrates in practical terms that observing God’s leading was more important than checking a box.

So how do we keep the holy spaces in our lives holy in this busy world full of to-do lists, activities, and things to complete?

We worship and pray.

In worship, we invite His presence and rest. I love getting into physical postures of worship as a reminder to myself to defer to His presence. It may feel awkward to raise your hands alone in your dining room or lay down before Him, but I think getting into position to say “here I am to worship” is a great way to keep the holy spaces holy. Worship and prayer go hand in hand and can easily be expressed in song, journaling, speaking, meditating and more to make greater room for His presence.

We let God lead.

As nerdy as I may be, I know the best way to keep myself in check is to listen to Him. If I follow my usual steps without asking Him where we are going today, I am just going through the motions. Rest and revelation come when I take time to listen. He will often nudge me to linger over a verse a bit longer or to stay in prayer or to change things up. And those always become the most important moments.

We tithe our time.

We think about tithing–giving back to God what is His–when we talk about money. But our most consistent resource that comes from God is our time. Every minute we have on this earth is from Him and yet we get frustrated that we do not have enough time in our day. The truth is, the days, the minutes, the years do not belong to us. We should steward our time responsibly just as we do our money. When we give back to the Lord what is His first, He richly blesses us. I have found it is easy to rush into ritual when we are squeezing time with the Lord into our day rather than making sure His time is the first thing on our schedule each day. I don’t think that means it has to be in the morning, but it is a first commitment–a commitment to letting that time with Him have the top priority in our day and then scheduling everything else around Him. That is how we observe the space for holy rest and keep it holy.

What else would you add to this list? How do you keep the holy spaces holy in your walk with Him?

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