One of the ways I've learned to notice the whispers of the Spirit is to pay attention to recurring themes. When I start hearing the same thing, over and over again, I know to give credence to it as a possible invitation from God to consider. One such theme has been reverberating lately: Keeping Sabbath.
A friend dropped a book off in my mailbox a couple of weeks ago on Sabbath. I sat in a planning meeting where someone suggested to include Sabbath-keeping as a required practice for a new certificate program on spiritual direction. And finally, Friday night, I attended a writer's conference and heard the speaker, Dr. Matthew Sleeth, talk about his new book, 24/6--you guessed it, on honoring the Sabbath.
The question that Sleeth posed is "What is missing in your life?"--a profitable one for this series on questions that help raise us toward God.
Matthew Sleeth told the story of being in his third year of medical school, gathered around an x-ray with fellow med students and after studying it for an hour, concluding that it was a chest x-ray of a normal patient. His professor then gave them all a clue. "Don't just look for what is there, look for what is missing." They continued to be puzzled.
Finally, the radiologist said that he had just called the patient to inform her that he feared she had cancer. The evidence: her left clavicle (collar bone) was missing! Eaten away by this stealth disease.
Sleeth made the point that often we forget to look at "what's missing" in our lives. It's much harder to notice what's missing than what's present--and Sabbath is a case in point. But that question is a very formative one as we focus on our spiritual condition and interest in drawing closer to God.
What's missing--in our lives, in our relationships with God?
For me, Sabbath is often the sacrificial lamb I offer on the alter of my "busy" life. I work a lot. When I'm not working my official jobs, I'm busy doing, producing, and achieving. And when I take an x-ray of my internal being, I can tell what's missing: rest. Rest from accomplishing. Rest from being responsible. Rest from striving. Rest.
So--what's missing for you? What do you need more of? What do you need less of? If you take time to examine your inner being, what is absent? That's the first step in diagnosing our spiritual condition. The next is, "What will we do about it?"
Incidentally, it just occurred to me that today is the Sabbath--and here I am, writing a blog post. Busted:)