Too Busy to Keep the Ridiculous Notion of the Sabbath

Everyone I know is busy. And if you read the previous post, I don’t know anyone that is really happy. Are these observations linked? Would we be happier if we were less busy? Some might say so but I know plenty of bored people who are not happy either.

We’re busy people. There’s a lot we want to do these days and there’s a lot we want to do before we die. We want to enjoy life, laugh with our family and friends, experience happiness and love, find discover new things and contribute to the good of this world. We want to find meaning, find God (if there really is one), and figure out our place in this world.

As we search the answers to these big questions, we have schedules to keep, bills to pay, people to take care of, demands, responsibilities, and all the whatevers of life that keep us busy. At the end of a long day we sit down to catch our breath, turn on “Love It or List It” and two hours later, dozens of houses, and a few annoying home-buyers, you’re even more tired, more frustrated and already bogged down by the busyness forecast for the next day.

Exhausted by the never-ending to-do list, and frustrated that our aspirations move further beyond our grasp someone inevitably comes along and asks, “Do you ever practice keeping the Sabbath?”

Ahh yes, the Sabbath. The Fourth Commandment – “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20:8).

Umm, no I don’t keep the Sabbath, I’m busy, I have a lot going on, so if you don’t mind, please either move along or quickly unload the guilt on me and I’ll add it to my to-do list of dealing with it later but whatever you decide, just make it fast because I have stuff to do and watch more “Love It or List It” and then Sportscenter.

Is there anything more ridiculous than the keeping of the Sabbath? All decent people will understand the other commandments that forbid murdering, theft, adultery, even the worship of idols (that can’t be good, right?). But a mandatory off day? Why does God care so much and why put it on the same scale as these other commands?

Sabbath-keeping feels like a luxury for rich, spiritual people. Or for the Jetsons. But you don’t understand, I have people relying on me, emails to reply to, and the Geico lizard guy sent me a pink envelope stating my car insurance is going to be terminated because I forgot to send in my $60 payment (that company is so much nicer on TV then in the mail – weird).

Then there are the real problems. Some covered in the previous post. They involve work, family, relationships, our dreams, our hurts, and pretty much everything categorized as “life.” No wonder we’re tired and feel we can’t get it all done. Added all together week after week after week, burnout becomes inevitable. Burnout ruins us not only physically but also emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. It’s not just more sleep we need, it’s actually stopping and resting during our waking hours as well. 

Burnout traps us into thinking that it’s all up to us. It deludes into believing that we don’t really need God, nor do we need others. As we burnout, we really start believing that it’s really all up to us and that all success, goodness and even things like rest are found and solved by ourselves with our talents and abilities. 

The only way we really break this pattern is by stopping and observing something like the Sabbath. I know Christians and Jewish observers are not the only ones who practice some form of Sabbath-keeping. Religious and non-religious try to have some sort of break. Many succeed, many don’t. We realize that we may take a break on the weekends from working our jobs but unable to take a break from some our other responsibilities. We often show up on Mondays unrested, frustrated, and feeling the grind once again.

It took me a while to realize but the command of keeping The Sabbath is a reminder that God cares and like all the 10 commandments, it’s all a part of the life-giving message that God wants to impart to us and others. Exodus 20’s famous list of “Do This and Don’t Do That” is actually meant to extend our lives and help us to enjoy it. 

Further, I find it amazing that Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). He could have said a lot of things, like “Come … and I will give you something better to do, a more amazing job, or a more amazing life.” If I was a speech-writer for Jesus, I’d have suggested that. Jesus, if you want people to sign up for this thing, give them a better job. Rest feels a bit underwhelming because you know, most of us think we’ll rest a little later. Besides, the last thing I want to do is work so hard, take a rest and go back to the things that make me miserable but now with a little refreshment.

Maybe we don’t understand the purpose of rest. And maybe that’s the difference between taking a break during the weekend and what Scripture is teaching us about the Sabbath. Maybe we’ve missed the beauty found in the Sabbath and perhaps that’s why we are reluctant to practice it. 

The Sabbath is designed for worship, rest and renewal. It re-centers us. The Sabbath tells the bill folder, the inbox, the schedule, the hype machine that they don’t really control us, but the only authority we bow to is in our Creator, the Giver of the Sabbath, the Redeemer of life.

The Sabbath tells us that whatever work looks like, don’t do it and whatever rest looks like for you, do that. So maybe going for a jog is life-giving for you, do that. Maybe you’d rather do your taxes than jog, don’t do either on your Sabbath. Maybe cooking and sharing a table with loved ones is restful, maybe ordering a pizza makes for a better Sabbath. Whatever brings you rest is where you find Sabbath. Though I can be inconstant with my Sabbath-keeping, I do see a difference when I lean into it.

The Sabbath is also the time where we realize that we must find a greater reliance on God’s provision. That rest helps us discover and rediscover and deepen our calling, our gifting and our mission. Simply put, rest and renewal helps us experience the rich life Jesus promises.

This is the worship piece of the Sabbath. We thank God for His provision. We grow in the belief that we will get enough done and that our productivity or lack of productivity is not what defines our humanity or our success or happiness in life. Instead we find who we are and what we’re here for when we spend time in worship, prayer, serving alongside each other, and doing what we were created to do and not do.

We’re all too busy. This will never change. But keeping the Sabbath is what helps us to stop, rest, regain perspective and find joy in the craziness of life. And as we do this, we might experience less craziness. Maybe keeping the Sabbath is not a ridiculous notion after all.

For a great book, I highly recommend 24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life by Matthew Sleeth. I have heard Matthew and his wife Nancy speak a few times over the years, and as a recent as this spring – highly recommend their wisdom.

Speak Your Mind