Is it Friday yet?
I’m tired. Really tired. I just finished two exhausting days participating my company’s semiannual sales conference (for which I had spent the last week or so preparing), and I’m just about as drained as drained can get.
I suppose it’s a happy coincidence, then, that this week’s adventure is to do with rest.
Once upon a time, most Bible-believing varieties of people kept Sabbath in one way or another. In case you’re not familiar with the concept of Sabbath, here’s the biblical back-story to it in a nutshell: God created the earth in six days, and on the seventh day he rested. He thus set aside one day in seven as holy and started up the seven-day rhythm of weeks that has kept rolling along ever since. When he gave Moses the Ten Commandments, he put Sabbath-keeping — that is, the conscious act of setting the Sabbath day apart for rest and worship — right up there with not worshiping idols, not killing, and not committing adultery as a crucial part of holy living. Jesus did a lot to clarify how the Sabbath day was to be honored, but he most certainly did not do away with the commandment: after his crucifixion, Christians note, Jesus rested in the grave throughout the seventh day.
Given this, Sabbath-keeping has historically been a big deal for Christians and Jews alike, even though it goes completely against modern American logic. If you live in a state where you can’t buy alcohol on Sundays (Hoosiers), it’s because you’re living under the last gasps of the old blue laws put in place “way back when” to help communities honor the Sabbath together.
There are some of the Ten Commandments that I have no trouble following. I’ve never killed anyone. (I don’t think I could.) Adultery doesn’t tempt me. (I have an awesome husband.) Honoring my parents was a little tricky when I was a teenager, but it’s second nature to me now. (Again, though . . . my parents = pretty awesome.) I don’t steal, and I try my hardest not to lie (cross my heart).
Sabbath, though . . . Sabbath I don’t do so well. My weekdays I spend working at work; my weekends I spend working at home. After forty hours at the office, I wake up Saturday morning to piles of laundry and clutter — a home in chaos. It usually takes me most of Saturday and Sunday to set things right before heading back to the office on Monday. I’d like to rest (if I could only manage to get caught up first), but deep down inside, I don’t think I can afford rest. What’s more, I almost never feel like I’ve done quite enough to deserve rest.
Here’s something really amazing Jesus said, though: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for Sabbath” (Mark 2:27.) The Sabbath, with its radical notion of squandering an entire day every week in idleness — this commandment that I find to be one of the very hardest to keep — is not meant to be a hardship, but a gift!
For once, then, I’m going to try to receive the gift gratefully, as I embark bravely on Adventure 10: Keep the Sabbath. In the short term, it will mean extra work. I fully intend to bring my week’s work (both at my job and at home) to a successful completion by Saturday evening, so that I may rest all the more deeply the next day. This may be tough.
I should point out here that, yes, I am planning to observe Sabbath on Sunday. I know that whether to keep Sabbath on Saturday or Sunday has been a point of contention among Sabbath-keepers through the ages, but, in this instance, I’m consciously choosing to respect nearly two thousand years of Christian tradition, even if I personally do wonder sometimes whether the biblical basis for shifting Sabbath observance away from the seventh day might be a little hazy.
How strict am I going to be? Hmmm . . . I’m not sure of all the details yet, but here are a few of the ways I’m planning to make this Sunday a true day of rest:
1. Go to church.
2. Turn off the TV and Internet for the day. (Screen time may be playtime for me, but it’s also a crucial part of my profession. Also, time I spend in front of a screen generally doesn’t feel very refreshing or holy. I’m cutting it out.)
3. Abstain from housework or laundry.
4. Avoid any activity that I would normally do seeking a sense of accomplishment. (I’m afraid this will prevent me blogging.) This may seem like a vague and mildly pointless restriction to you, but it will represent a huge paradigm shift for me. One burden I carry around n the depths of me (don’t ask me where it came from) is the weighty question, “What have you done to justify your existence today?” This Sunday, the answer will be a resounding, “Nothing!”
5. Devote the day to family, to friends, and to activities that are spiritually uplifting, enjoyable, and refreshing: worship, music, games, recreational reading or writing, walking, conversation.
I’ve been reading a great book recently (one that I hope to finish before this weekend): Marva Dawn’s Keeping the Sabbath Wholly. I hope to tell you more about it when I’ve made my way all the way through, but I can say, two thirds in, that it’s giving me a lot to think about as I contemplate keeping Sabbath more intentionally.
Till next week, then!