The following excerpt is from Looking for Lovely, by Annie F. Downs, a collection of personal stories, biblical truth, and examples of how others have courageously walked the path God paved for their lives by remembering all God had done, loving what was right in front of them, and seeing God in the everyday. Find more information on the book and Bible study at lifeway.com.
One of my favorite parts of Lydia’s story is that when we meet Lydia in Acts 16:13, she’s a successful businesswoman who’s observing the Sabbath down by the river with her friends.
Last year, when I got to go to Israel, we celebrated a Sabbath, or Shabbat as they say, in Jerusalem. From Friday night at sundown until Saturday night at sundown, the city literally stops. No shops are open, no electronics are used—no phones, computers, dishwashers, nothing.
What I did see, over and over throughout the city as I walked the streets on that Saturday, were groups of friends standing around talking. No rushing from here to there, no head down looking at your phone as you walk. No hurry. At all.
Though, to be fair, I’m still wrestling through what it looks like for me to add Sabbath to my every week. If I disappear from the world one full day a week, I’ll miss a lot of fun and connection with my friends, since Shabbat isn’t something celebrated across my whole community.
Instead, I’m finding little moments to walk away. An hour with my phone off (Gasp! Yes, off), a day hanging out with friends and putting an auto-responder on my email letting people know I’ll be back tomorrow. Making a choice, like Lydia, and getting together with my pals to catch up. That’s what she was doing. She was hanging out with her friends by the river on the Sabbath. Before Paul arrived, maybe they were talking about God or maybe they were talking about recipes.
Whereas I can convince myself that a woman of influence, a businesswoman, has no time to take a day off or rest or put her phone down and walk away when there’s work to be done, Lydia shows us that isn’t true. And just to be clear, it wasn’t that she didn’t have fabric that needed to be dyed or laundry that needed to be done or family to care for. She allowed herself a break.
What Sabbath shows me is that in order to catch up to the demands of my life, I have to rest. When I choose rest on a regular basis, I actually accomplish more when I’m working. God’s kingdom economy just works like that.
The slower I go, the more my eyes can focus on what’s right in front of me. It’s like the difference between standing in Times Square with all the billboards and bright lights and standing on the beach when the sun sets. I need Sabbath. I need to choose quiet and rest and slowness, even when I’m trying to run a business and home and small group and relationships, because the quiet shows me the lovely that’s right in front of my eyes.
Sabbath helps me look for lovely in unique ways. And, as we see in Lydia’s life, it was right in the middle of the Sabbath that God opened her heart (Acts 16:14) and changed her life. I think that’s something to be remembered.
Excerpted from Annie F. Downs, Looking for Lovely © 2016 B&H Publishing Group®. Used by permission.