Book Review: "The Rest of God"
This book was recommended to me, and it’s truly one to savor - not just because of its message but also because of the author's ability to weave words. I appreciate creative, insightful and playful writing. The author achieves all of these and as a result, the book is enjoyable to simply read. His points both delight and require digestion.
The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath by Mark Buchanan
This was undoubtedly one of the best books that I read in 2019 - or all time for that matter. I had no idea who Buchanan was, but I found myself wanting to sit down over coffee with him before I'd finished.
In fact, I also found my reading slowing down as I realized this was a book for me. I nurtured by soul on this book and its reminders from scripture. I didn't want to plow through it and began taking each chapter as a moment of restful awakening. I also read Matt Perman's What's Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done this year, and these two books have affirmed my life patterns and also re-minded me of the eternal and significant in viewing my life as a gift from Jesus to be given to the world, beginning with those closest to me.
One last word before I jump into review: biblical. This book is grounded and runs deep in the scriptures. When I said earlier that Buchanan is a great wordsmith, I wasn't implying this is an "easy" read. It's certainly delightful and easy to read because he's a great communicator. But this is no Christian self-help book absent of scriptural support and substance. You'll be taken deep into biblical truths - all the way from circumcision (yes! in a book on Sabbath!) to Revelation.
How do you review a great book?
I underline and make notes and use symbols in my book margins, and as I thumbed through The Rest of God after finishing it, I realized that it may be easier to share what I didn't underline rather than what I did.
Even the table of contents draws you in. Let me share with you how he's structured the book. His overall thought is that in today's fast-paced culture and family-intensive activity, you'll have to stop doing some things.
Introduction: Starting to Stop
Then there are scattered chapters on stopping - Stopping to:
Find what's missing
See God's bigness
Number our day's aright
Remove the taskmaskers
Find a center
Just to waste time
Taste the kingdom
Pick up the pieces
In his chapter on The Rest of Time:Stopping to Number Our Days Aright, Buchanan says that Sabbath allows us room to be purposeful with our lives again. To notice. When our faces are filled with screens and noise and distraction, we cannot pay attention to the little things and interruptions that are beautiful opportunities.
As an aside, I wonder after seeing students walk across the college campus these days with their faces buried in their smart phones if our culture would ever birth a Good Samaritan? We miss people on the side of the road because we're too busy liking, posting, reading, and gramming.
"Paying attention means we make room for surprise. We become hospitable to interruption... a conviction in our bones is that God is Lord of our days and years, and that His purposes and His presence often come disguised as detours, messes, defeats. I came to you naked, Jesus says. I came to you thirsty. "When, Lord?" we ask, startled. When He wore the disguise of an interruption."
The beauty and purposefulness behind playfulness
When I finished the chapter on Play: Stopping Just to Waste Time, I had to stop and think more. I grew up in a Christian home and attended Southern Baptist churches all my life. Unfortunately, in my young Christian days, I did not view Sabbath as something to be enjoyed but as something to be observed.
I've written before (in Sunday nights in the 70s) about how Sabbath as a child seemed to designed to rob me from joy as Sunday night church competed with The Wonderful World of Disney. This chapter on play was such a boon and balm. I have habits/routines of exercise, rest, play and solitude. There are times when I’m doing any of these that I fight the guilt monster that whispers, “You should be doing _____.” It could be returning emails, prepping sermons, scheduling a meeting, etc. It doesn’t matter. Something. The author’s point is don’t do things that are useful on Sabbath. Step away from the altar of utility that you’ve built and simply taste life. Enjoy. Play. We are more familiar with the idea of Sabbath as don’t do anything. Especially if you enjoy it (because God just wants you to “rest”). But the rest God desires is a rest from work — what we do to be useful.
This book is intended to either restore or bequeath sabbath to you. It will show you that you are designed to enjoy the Sabbath and that God made a day of rest on purpose - for us. It's not a day to relished as a "day off." Rather, when you recover Sabbath in your life, you will find yourself re-learning how to enjoy and revel in Him.
"The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27)
I like how Buchanan closes his epilogue: "It's a day that God intended to fuss over us, not we over it."