Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sabbatical or Shmita

By the seventh day, God completed His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done. 3 God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, for on it He rested from His work of creation. Genesis 2:2-3

In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, but on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed. Exodus 31:17b

I am a doer. I keep a DayPlanner on purpose. I set alarms so I won't miss appointments. "Busy" is not a bad word in my vocabulary, but can almost be refreshing for me! So why am I sitting here, day after day, doing "nothing." There have been weeks when I have not opened my DayPlanner or looked at the calendar at all. If I am gifted and called and about My Father's business, how can I justify "sitting around."

I recently read The Empty Nest by Barbara Rainey and Susan Yates. I had picked it up at a conference almost a year ago knowing that this term would soon characterize my life. I did NOT know at the time that instead of my children leaving the nest, I would in a sense "abandon" the nest by moving 850 miles away from my children! This sudden move also took me away from a very involved ministry and a career I was fully enjoying.

Wanting to help, my dear husband has suggested that I just need to get involved in something to get "back on track." To do some of those things I had been doing only in our new city. However, after reading The Empty Nest, I got a sense of God telling me to stop; take a break; be still (which I found out Sunday means "drop your hands" literally). I joined a Ladies' Bible study group this fall and there were opportunities there that I could well qualify for, from leading small groups, to teaching, to tutoring home schooled teens. And as I considered each, I again heard that Voice saying, "Be still for this time."

I was intrigued that when researching the term "sabbatical" that it actually is rooted in the Biblical concept of Sabbath. I was sent to the term "Shmita" and discovered this: Shmita in Hebrew translates "release." During Shmita, the land is left to lie fallow and all agricultural activity—including plowing, planting, pruning and harvesting—is forbidden by Torah law. Other cultivation techniques—such as watering, fertilizing, weeding, spraying, trimming and mowing—may be performed as a preventative measure only, not to improve the growth of trees or plants. Additionally, any fruits which grow of their own accord are deemed hefker (ownerless) and may be picked by anyone. A variety of laws also apply to the sale, consumption and disposal of Shmita produce. A second aspect of Shmita concerns debts and loans. When the Shmita year ends, personal debts are considered nullified and forgiven. The Book of Leviticus promises bountiful harvests to those who observe the shmita and makes observance a test of religious faith. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shmita)

Having been around agriculture my entire life, I understand what this is talking about. I get it! All agricultural activity is forbidden except that which is performed as preventative measures. For me, this means I can--and should!--attend worship services, Bible study, outings with friends, dates with my husband, visits with my mother, time in conversation and consultation with my children. These would all be preventative measures: those things I do to prevent the evil one from getting a foothold in my life and in the lives of those I hold dear. (No weeds!)

However plowing, planting, pruning, and harvesting are to be put aside for a time. For me, these are discipling responsibilities. Since my prominent Spiritual Gift is Teaching, I am to take a Shmita from teaching. This is my year to learn. To really set aside time just to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn. Rest in Him.

My last blog talked about Busy Christians--what are we busy "doing." I still hold to the thought that we are to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. But to be a proper "doer" I have to allow myself a Sabbath to rest and prepare for the time ahead. I will not stop preventative care, but I WILL be obedient to Shmita. I will not volunteer to lead a study, add another responsibility to my plate, until my Shmita year is over.

The interesting thing to me is that we know this time in El Paso is set for a year. That's right. We are not sure where the next place on our life road will take us, but I do know that when this year ends, I will be rested and refreshed and ready for whatever work comes next. Whether we return to our children or are taken to a new place, Shmita will be over and my time to plow, plant, prune, and harvest will begin again.

The promise of Shmita is bountiful harvests to those who observe the Shmita and make observance a test of religious faith.

My prayer today is that my Shmita year will be all that God designed it to be; that I will pay attention to His Words and to His refreshing grace in my life. And as my Shmita comes to an end, I will be prepared, even eagerly waiting to see what my next assignment is!

May God's refreshing Word be alive in your heart this day!