I have to admit right up front that I’m breaking the commandment I’m about to encourage you to follow. I’m writing this article on the first day of my vacation, which is supposed to be a break from work, not a continuation of it. But I wasn’t able to get all my work done before I left, and I don’t want to get on the newsletter editor’s bad side. She runs a tight ship!
The commandment I’m breaking is the observance of the Sabbath. As described in the Bible, the Sabbath is a time of rest from all forms of work, modeled after God’s rest on the seventh day after creating the world. Observing the Sabbath is meant to be God’s way of reminding us that our bodies and minds weren’t meant to run non-stop. We need breaks, or else we break down.
For centuries, the Sabbath was observed with strict adherence. No form of work was done on the Sabbath by humans or animals. It was truly a day of rest and renewal. Mothers didn’t cook, dads didn’t go to the office, kids didn’t do all the things they liked to do the other six days. Some of you may still remember the blue laws that helped keep this in effect
But the Sabbath wasn’t just a rest for rest’s sake. Yes, our bodies and minds need rest, but our spirit also needs reorientation. During the six days of work, it’s easy for us to lose sight of our connection with God. On the seventh day, we are called to use our time of rest to focus on God. We rest our minds and bodies as a way of honoring them as God’s gifts to us, and as a way of reminding us of why we’re here in the first place.
Today, the practice of observing the Sabbath seems antiquated at best and irrelevant at worst. Who in the world can take off a whole day from work? As Sunday loses its sacredness and the surrounding culture invades our Sabbath day, we find it harder and harder to find a day for rest. Even vacations become times to catch up on unwritten newsletter articles!
Is it unrealistic to ask us to take a whole day off from productivity in a society that determines a person’s value by their accomplishments? Can we bear the consequences of a day of “doing nothing in the name of God”? I admit observing the Sabbath may not be possible in our current state of living. But we can’t justify breaking a commandment simply because it’s no longer convenient.
So I would like to suggest an alternative. If you feel like you can’t give up a whole day to rest and renew, how about looking for Sabbath moments in each day? Is there a time each day you can unplug and give to God? For example, I try to commit to reading at least one half-hour each day. No TV, no cell phone, no computer. Often I spend a few moments after reading reflecting on God’s words for me in what I just read.
There are other times in our day we can turn into Sabbath moments. Sitting in traffic can become a time of prayer. Exercising can become a time of reciting a litany of all the things for which we can be thankful. A sit-down dinner with the family can be a time of breaking bread and sharing stories. All of the above activities can be seen as simply one more thing to check off our daily to-do list, or they can be seen as pockets of space opened by God in our day to take a break.
A machine that never stops running breaks down. A body that never stops moving eventually gives out. A faith that never stops to rest wears thin. Follow God’s example. Observe the Sabbath. Find time to rest and reconnect.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to play a game of Candyland with my girls.