Last Wednesday I went to the hospital for arthroscopic surgery on my left knee. Dutifully I reported at 5:30 a.m. (Yes, despite my protestations that God is not awake at that hour, I still had to report at 5:30 a.m. for a 7:00 a.m. surgery.) Suffice to say the surgery went fine. The only real hiccup was the discovery of an “insufficient” fracture of my left knee in addition to the cartilage work the doctor was expecting. (If I understand it right, an “insufficient fracture” is a fracture inside the knee that does not reach the outer edge of the knee.) Instead of 2 weeks on crutches, I am now sentenced to 4 weeks on crutches plus some physical therapy.
I had blocked off Wednesday for the surgery and Thursday through Sunday for healing. I learned again the truth of a line I have learned many times in my life: “If you want to make God laugh, tell her your plans.”
I thought recuperation would be a pleasant 4 day sabbatical from the routine of work. The combination of pain, pain medication, and exercise involved anything but gentle, easy rest. I tried reading some professional books (Deep and Wide by Andy Stanley and Apologetics by Alister McGrath, both good and recommended with enthusiasm) but found I could not concentrate. I switched to a long awaited science fiction novel by David Weber (Like a Mighty Army; the 7th in the Safehold Series). It is a great yarn, full of action. I could only hang on for about 2 & 1/2 pages before drugs and drowsiness would cause me to lose focus.
Recovering from surgery or battling illness in any form is not Sabbath rest! Duh! This obvious truth I know well and yet easily forgot. As I recovered it set me to thinking about the importance of rest amid the rhythm of work. This is not a new thought with me. I have long held that we live at a pace that is not sustainable. Our bodies sometimes make us slow down. Mine did so for me.
Yet Sabbath is something different. It is an intentional dedicated pause for a purpose. The purpose is to both honor and refocus on God as Lord and Ruler of our lives. The Scriptures teach us a far greater truth than simply enforced time off. The commandment to honor the Sabbath springs from the earlier commandment, “You must have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). We are instructed/commanded by the Lord God: “Remember the Sabbath Day and treat it as holy. Six days you may work and do all your tasks, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to The Lord your God. …” (Exodus 20:8-10a).
Even in recovery The Lord is teaching me. Even in recovery my own sinful nature is ever before me. I have tried to act as if this commandment to honor the Sabbath has been repealed and am found out. I’ve tried to “double dip” my time by having recovery serve as an enforced Sabbath and it has not worked. The purpose of Sabbath rest directs me back to God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It leads me in prayer and obedience, reflection and renewal.
My Spiritual Director is always reminding me not to find the time for devotions and quiet but rather to MAKE the time for devotion and quiet. To honor the Sabbath is to make the Sabbath holy, not to squeeze something else in it (not even something as necessary as recovery from surgery). Sabbath can never be enforced but is a freely chosen act of obedience, love and devotion. In our pauses, in my pauses, God speaks once again and listening (however foggily amid the pain and pills) I find myself blessed and loved.
How is it with your soul?