Two Fridays ago, I entered the old City of Jerusalem as the sun set and Sabbath began. Our kind host greeted us at the gate and led us winding uphill between stone walls like a maze. I would have been lost in two minutes had he not been leading.
This gentleman hosts authentic Shabbat meals in his home for visitors to the Holy Land, and we were the lucky ones that night. It was Purim and a dark sky. Songs were coming out windows. The Wailing Wall was buzzing with a strange mix of grief and celebration.We were mere streets over from the Via Dolorosa.
On our walk he asked that we take no photographs and leave our cell phones off, and he explained to us all the ways they keep Sabbath. He said, “Often you hear Sabbath explained as a time to rest, but it really means to cease from work.”
By the time we sat at his beautiful table, I had given in to my senses, knowing I wouldn’t remember the event with photographs. I would remember it with what I ingested: the food, the wine, and the stories.
I look back on it now, still in my jet lag, and I’m left with scenes of foggy laughter and a spicy sauce made to mix with homemade hummus. I’m left with a flickering candlelight and the tune of a song we sang in Hebrew. But more than anything, I remember the thud in my stomach when our host said “cease from work.”
Cease from work. Hasn’t my life-long desire always been to work my way into good grace?
A few years ago, I was explaining my latest, greatest scheme to serve the kingdom of God, expecting my dear friend to give me a pat on the back. Instead, she offered her side smirk and knowing glance and said, “We like the striving, don’t we, Amber?”
It still echoes inside me. I sure do love the striving.
I wouldn’t teach you this in Bible Study, no, but if you look at my life, you would see a woman who loves to think she’s the one who brings about the kingdom of God, as if I’m an usher for King Jesus and He won’t come unless I do right.
But isn’t He the Shepherd? Doesn’t He lead us into the kingdom?
My entire faith journey has been an unveiling of the many ways I’d like to work my way to God, and it makes me laugh that maturity means learning how to cease.
If we never cease from work, we’ll never see the thin line between working in faith and humility and working in an exhausting pride.
It has been a week of jet lag for me, and I’ve felt ridiculous for it. I’ve hardly accomplished a thing, but in my exhaustion, when I push the guilt of un-accomplishment aside, I see it. He’s the one who leads. He’s the one who loves first. I am so grateful for the flickering light within me, the freedom I have but didn’t win for myself.
I can picture it now, walking the streets of Jerusalem, King Jesus up ahead. He has gone before me.
Be still, even on a Tuesday, and know that He is God.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
How I would love to experience what you got to experience in the Holy Land. I think being there and walking the streets that Jesus’ walked would make Jesus even more real to me. I admit, when I meet Jesus in the pages of my Bible, I read that He said, “It is finished.” But, like you, I still think there is something more that I have to do win God’s good graces. I, too, am a member of “Strivers Anonymous”. I am gradually learning to give up this prideful habit, but will find myself slipping back into this comfortable old, but not good, habit. I love the translation of Sabbath as to “cease from working”. May I read into it as well…cease from striving, trying to earn, trying to be perfect and all the other mistaken ideas I have. Thank you for this beautiful thought provoking post this morning…
Bev, it’s true that sometimes what we say we believe (our orthodoxy) doesn’t line up with how we practice our belief (our orthopraxy). If we don’t have right belief about the work of Christ on the cross, then we can’t have right actions (like th ability to cease and know), but sometimes I look at my life, and I know I say the right words, but my deeper thought life is saying something altogether different. I’ve had to realign myself this week and remember “It is finished,” and I don’t bear the weight of the world. Now that is good news.
Thank you, Bev.
Oh Amber, how I would love to experience what you got to experience in the Holy Land.
Love to read this,because this morning in my quiet time with Jesus I experienced the same thing. Here in Europe (or well at least the country I live in) it’s the first day with real spring weather, the first day in the year where I could sit in my front yard, in a t-shirt, letting the sun warm my face and I decided it would be the first day of many that I’m gonna write everything down what’s on my heart and on my mind.
And you know what, after 3 pages of writing, I came to the same conclusion. That I just need to Be still and know that He is God. That’s all that matters.
I sat there in my front yard for several hours, and decided to push my “to do list” to the background, and just “be” in the moment, enjoying the sun and His presence.
Praise God He reminded me again of that truth through your blog this morning!
Be still and know that He is God! He is enough, our relationship with Him, our walk with Him is all that matters.
Rinske, it frustrates me so much that this is one of the hardest things in the world for me to do: be still and know. My husband gave a talk on Sunday night that blew me away. He basically said the often we don’t rest because usually that’s when pain rises to the top, and we must be willing to go through it to get to the truth on the other side.
It encourages me that the Spirit is speaking the same to you. Enjoy your spring! It’s happening at our house for the first time this week, too. 🙂
Inspired Life says
Amen for the ability to come back and BASK in the sweet comfort of knowing that HE is God. Continue to sit at His feet having chosen the good part. And your words have given me permission to sit a spell and read and meditate. I am just still right here leaning into Jesus, my solid rock, my firm foundation. Blessing to you today for cessation of work at the appropriate time as there is truly a time and place for everything under the heavens.
Inspired LIFE, yes and amen and let it be so. Bask is beautiful word, and sometimes posts like these sound cheesy and like easy answers, but for me today, this is my clinging for dear life. He is God and He is good. Bask and know.
Amy M says
Oh, yes, the striving! I had a time in my life where I was basically checking all the good little Christian girl boxes and when you do that, it’s so easy to think that because we’re doing “good” things, it’s not all about our pride. I have liked the striving. Lately, though, life has refocused for me and there’s a lot more rest. A lot of realization that for all of that time I spent trying to work for God, He already had me.
Jamie S. Harper says
Writing vulnerably this Tuesday morning, and I see the myriad of ways I’ve been striving. It feels like you wrote this for me. Oh, how I do hope to visit the Holy Land one day. There is a lot of things on my list of one days. Today, though I will cease and look for my King in thin places.
Lisa-Jo Baker says
“as if I’m an usher for King Jesus and He won’t come unless I do right.
But isn’t He the Shepherd? Doesn’t He lead us into the kingdom?”
wow that is so so good Amber. Thank you for this insight.
Flower Patch Farmgirl says
“…as if I’m an usher for King Jesus and He won’t come unless I do right.”
This is a good word, but one I’d rather not hear. 😉
Thanks for reminding us strivers of the hard/easy truth.
Amber, what a gift you were given to be in the Holy Land celebrating Purim, honoring the Sabbath! My dream is to one day go there. 🙂
I’m like you. I struggle with the lie that doing=accomplishing. Sometimes, doing equals fighting the fear that I might not be enough in and of myself.
What you’re reminding me is that ceasing from work, and being still before God is the main thing He wants from me. My heart inclined toward His, listening. Worshiping.
By the way, Psalm 46:10 is a verse I meditate on every night as I’m trying to fall asleep. 🙂
Amber – this beautiful piece just echoes the words the Spirit keeps whispering into this aging heart. It seems to be a lesson I must learn over and over again. So hard to shed that works mentality and receive with open heart all He has for me.
Thank you for this gentle reminder.
Cease from work. Wow, that is so hard for me.
Last night we were talking with a friend who just came back from Guatemala. He said the best thing about the trip was when he realized his phone didn’t work, everything around him was in Spanish, and his mind was finally QUIET for more than two seconds.
How do we bring that kind of quiet into our noisy world?
Alecia Simersky says
I would LOVE to visit the Holy Land one day. It’s on my bucket list.
I’m terrible at resting. I just don’t do it well. And striving? Well. I’m right there with you, sister. I’m out to prove to God that I AM good enough, when really I don’t have to prove anything. Just live the life He’s given me well.
There is something about the Holy Land… They get rest, don’t they. No striving. No work. Just family, worship and food. Thank you for allowing me to relive my Shabbat memory and for sharing yours with incourage. And may I remember it’s not in the striving as I go about my Wednesday (I’m in Australia).
Jody Ohlsen Collins says
“Even on a Tuesday.” Well, of course on a Tuesday (and a Friday and a Monday…). I’ve been walking with the Lord for over 40 years and have only learned the last 5 or so years to walk in His love and let Him lead….I was so busy DOING something for Jesus I never saw how much He just wanted me to know him (and vice-versa–his pursuit of me.) I am growing more in love with Him all the time.
You are wise and blessed to hear the Holy Spirit speaking these gentle words to you now. Very wise.
Thank you for sharing them with us, Amber.
“Cease from work.” I love this. Thank you so much for sharing your insight on this powerful truth.
And for the reminder that HE is the shepherd…and HE dose the leading. 🙂
Beth Williams says
I wish our country would be like Jerusalem and some south American countries. They understand rest and Sabbath Rest. All we have here is go go go rush rush rush. I long for the stillness of just being in the presence of God and hearing Him. We can’t hear Him unless we truly reverence Him.
To often people believe they have to earn God’s grace and strive for it. It is hard to accept a “free” gift so great and not have to work for it.
Samantha Barnes says
love this, Amber! 🙂
Cynthia McGarity says
So grateful to see you back here, Amber. It’s not often enough for me. And thanks for the vulnerability you share in your post. It’s that “cease to work” that has caught on in my spirit the last few years…after a lifetime of doing the exact opposite. Now I struggle with “am I being lazy or am I listening to a call to quiet?” Don’t always have an answer but glad to acknowledge that I don’t just have to run for my life anymore! Hope your Tuesday was quietly alive with His grace.