Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Cold Sabbath

Some things in life force you to slow down: an incredibly beautiful sunset as you're walking into your home, little children begging you to play with them, traffic when you're already late...the world's worst cold.

That one would be the one I'm thinking of most today. I was attacked by this mean little virus last Monday - and a solid 8 days later, I am still holed up in bed, sipping hot tea and homemade lattes and wondering whether it's possible to overdose on vitamin C and echinacea. The first few days of my cold, I refused to be slowed down - I took Advil for my headache, downed a water bottle every couple of hours, and kept right on going to work, church, and social events. I thought I was getting better by Thursday - and maybe I would have been if I had listened to my body and actually slowed down and rested - but I kept right on pushing all the way through Sunday. I stayed out late with friends on Friday night, eating the world's spiciest Thai food (even C agreed it was hot - a nearly impossible admission to draw from his lips); Saturday morning, I went hiking with some girl friends, cleaned the house and had a friend over for coffee, then went to an evening church service; Sunday morning, feeling a lot like death warmed over, I took my zombie self to teach 2-4 year-olds about Naaman and the importance of obedience, sharing my charming determination and indomitable will almost as successfully as the germs precipitating from my person in seemingly all directions.

Finally, on Sunday afternoon, determination failed me and I admitted my defeat: I put myself to bed at noon. And peace reigned. C came over and forced me to stay on the couch with my tea and blankets, graciously ignoring that I went through half a roll of toilet paper by myself in the few hours he was over. He even told me I looked cute - despite my bleary eyes and Rudolph nose.

I had things I wanted to do this weekend - people I wanted to see, cleaning I wanted to accomplish, lessons I wanted to learn in different languages. But I didn't even have the energy to eat, much less do anything more useful.

As part of my daily Bible reading, I've been reading through the Pentateuch - those first five books of the Old Testament that tell you exactly, in excruciating detail, how God wanted His people to behave, what their identity was in Him, and how He was going to respond to them when they did or didn't do what He had specified. Some of the laws seem a little extreme ("Someone with one leg shorter than the other cannot come into My presence" - huh?) - others seem down right strange (explain to me again, why can't I wear clothes that have a mixture of cotton and wool?), but one thing I've definitely noticed is that God took care of all the details - straight down to ensuring that people took regular times of rest. They had one day a week that was a "no work allowed day" - and the punishment was a little bit stronger than getting grounded from going to work the next day. They had different feasts on different months that were holy parties - one of them lasted for a week. They had fasts on certain days - and rests on others. And while it may seem like a lot to keep track of, one thing I really noticed this time reading through is not so much that God had a lot of rules - but God had a lot of rules that took care of His people at all levels. Those days of rest and fasting and partying before Him were filling them up spiritually, emotionally and, yes, even physically. And most of the time His people then did the same thing we do now when we read those long lists of "Thou shalt's and Thou shalt not's": ignored them as too many rules that are too hard to follow. But I think I usually miss the big picture: God cares for His people; He is good and kind and wants what's best for us.

And yes, I have to wonder why putting blood on the right big toe and the right thumb and the right earlobe mattered - but when I step back from the details and look at the whole, I see lots of ways that God was caring for His people holistically... that I often try to ignore as important in my daily life. Like taking regular times of Sabbath rest to spend time with Him and not work.

I didn't want to take the day off of work on Monday and spend all day yesterday and today in bed. But that's what I needed to do. And if I had been paying attention, and had prioritized setting apart - ie, making holy - time for rest and recuperation, maybe I wouldn't still be hacking up a lung. Maybe a Cold Sabbath was exactly what I needed to remind me that I serve a loving God who wants me to remember that He's doing just fine at running the world, and that what He really thinks is best for me is to sit back, spend time with Him, and rest. 

Maybe that's even a lesson in obedience.

I should tell the 3 year-olds - but not until I'm over this cough...

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