There's "No Sabbath" - What falls into this category are those weeks and days when all margins have been consumed. It's during these seasons when life feels like a video game; everything is coming at you with increasing speed and you are simply reacting - meeting - check; project deadline - check; social event - check; pay bills online - check; get frustrated and mystified because your insurance carrier didn't receive your last online payment even though the bank withdrew it from your account - check; look at siding on the house and feel guilty - check. And so it goes. The convergence zone of social engagements, work obligations, and domestic life can squeeze the margins dry in life. And Americans, working longer hours and sleeping less than our European counterparts, are paying the price: obesity, hypertension, and various forms of addiction all testify to our malady.
The recovery of Sabbath won't begin until we receive it as both the gift and precept from God that it is. God has wired us, it seems, to walk in a rhythm of work and rest, and we violate this at cost to both our enjoyment of life and our creativity/productivity. When we see that in God's economy for our lives, there's enough time for rest, we'll begin to structure our lives so that rest is part of plan, building margins into our daily and weekly routines. This is an act of faith, perhaps for more challenging than the faith required to budget money! It's a badge of honor in our society to say, "I'm busy", so that we face both social pressure, and our own desires for fulfilled, active lives. But if we don't change things, we'll pay the price.
There's "Bad Sabbath" - Having carved some margins into our lives, the next critical questions becomes, "What do I do with these margins?" The danger is that we'll use our newfound time to either catch up on the projects that have fallen completely off the radar of our lives, or that we'll simply allow ourselves to lapse into a passive state, wasting the day away in front of the television, knowing neither community nor creativity. Another danger is that we'll exhaust ourselves with some genuinely enjoyable activities, but arrive back to Monday having known little of either the rest or cultivation of gratitude that is intended to characterize the Sabbath.
There's "Good Sabbath" - It's interesting to not that in Exodus 16 we're told that the Sabbath is for humanity, but is also called a Sabbath to the Lord. For this reason the Sabbath needs to be about using the space God has provided for restoration, worship, and celebration. One author says it this way:
“Sabbath time is time off the wheel, time when we take our hand from the plow and let God and the earth care for things, while we drink, if only for a few moments, from the fountain of rest and delight. Sabbath is more than the absence of work; it is not just a day off, when we catch up on television or errands. It is the presence of something that arises when we consecrate a period of time to listen to what is most deeply beautiful, nourishing, or true.”
We need to work at this for several reasons. Those who have developed some habits for sabbath days or sabbath moments generally have the staying power to serve, love, create, and bless others over the long haul. And this, after all, is our calling.
If you have a moment... please share your thoughts:
What are the challenges you face in developing sabbath practices?
Are there things you do to help assure that you'll find some Sabbath time?
What does "Good Sabbath" look like in your household?