Blue Moon, Red Sun, and an Ancient Gift You’ve Missed
I didn’t see the blue moon, but I watched the big red sun drop lower in a blazing pink sky. A glowing red orb, it hung heavy, brushing bridges and buildings. I followed it with my eyes as I drove south on Highway 35, staring then glancing away in repetitive Icarus wonder, caught in its beauty but trying not to blind myself in it’s sunken smolder. In perilous folly, I tried to photograph it without looking, snapping pictures out the side window, while staring only at the road before me. In a blur of misses, I caught the sun in a couple quick cameos.
Parked and stopped, I swiped through my camera, sighing. Why is it that our cameras never catch the beauty that our eyes can see? In manufactured pixels, my camera tried: silhouetting a red sinking sun behind a squadron of parked semis, or capturing a blazing red ball between pale lampposts, their lights never in competition. Standing outside Rosedale Mall, I faced the sun, snapping photo after photo, trying to catch its beauty, and the darkness slipped in quiet.
It’s funny, isn’t it? We see beauty and it captivates us. Stilting words fall short. Amateur photography falls flat. And the gleaming beauty of God’s artistry blazes on in smoldering colors and hues, and I am speechless in wonder. The glimpses of it, though, bring resurging joy and peace to my soul.
Jogging this week for the first times again in a month of “wanting to” and “needing to” brought such joy and wonder that I bounced in my steps as I ran. I love this, I thought. Why haven’t I done this sooner? Autumn’s splendour was surely a part of it. Worried that running again after weeks of inactivity would be grueling, I was pleasantly surprised. Joy spread through me, loosening my shoulders, dropping them lower. Steady breathing patterns rippled out and I smiled as I ran, crunching curly yellow leaves.
And we learned it last week, me and a roomful of 55 ladies and men at Camp Jim’s fall refresh retreat. We traced it, spying on Jesus as he did ministry in New Testament Roman empire days. Then, jumping further back in history to the sun’s earliest glow, we studied as God the Creator worked for six days and then he shabbated.
Shabbat is the Hebrew word from which we get the Jewish term and idea of Sabbath. Shabbat means stop. After six days of creating nature’s beauty in red glowing sun, curly yellow leaves, and splashing waterfalls, God rested, God shabbated, the first book of the Bible tells us. But God doesn’t get tired, and so we dig deeper. Shabbat means to stop, and it also means to delight. So on the seventh day of creation, God shabbated, God stopped and delighted. And then God did one more thing: he blessed that day, setting it apart as special from other days. Then he instructed us to savor it.
And somehow over the centuries and millennia, the gift that was meant to be savored became a misunderstood, heavy-feeling burden with all of the joy sapped out of it. Instead of a day meant as a gift for rest and joyful play, for delighting in God, and for naps and nature walks, it became a misunderstood, misapplied rule meaning “sit still and make no noise.”
But Jewish Sabbaths are not quiet affairs, my grandmother told me. She and my grandfather used to shabbat all day with their Jewish Messianic friends in Washington state, dancing and spinning to loud Hebrew songs. They laughed, and danced, and ate, and told stories, and delighted in God’s presence and words.
“Sabbath is like receiving the gift of a heavy snow day every week,” says pastor and author Peter Scazzero in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. “Stores are closed. Roads are impassable. Suddenly you have the gift of a day to do whatever you want. You don’t have any obligations, pressures or responsibilities. You have permission to play, be with friends, take a nap, read a book. Few of us would give ourselves a ‘no obligation day’ very often.
God gives you one — every 7th day.
Think about it. He gives you seven weeks (52 days in all) of snow days every year! And if you begin to practice stopping, resting, delighting, and contemplating for one 24 hour period each week, you will soon find your other six days becoming infused with those same qualities. I suspect that has always been God’s plan” (p.171).
I am a novice at shabbating. I am still learning and rediscovering this ancient gift. God invites us — indeed he commands us– to practice this sabbath rest. Not as moral drudgery, but as a precious gift. Rediscover with me the gift of shabbat, a spiritual snow day for painting or pie-making, and delighting in God’s presence and gifts in life.
For me, I’m shabbatting to chase the big red sun, to run crunching through the leaves in joyful conversations with Jesus, and to soak in autumn’s splendour with my family.