Often my life looks like a function of my to-do list: the items on it become the make-up of my days, and anything beyond those responsibilities is undeserved, unwelcomed and altogether pushed aside until the list is done. Or at least until progress has been made. A day without progress plunges me into the fear that procrastination is equivalent to failure, and idleness will allow time to slip away from me.
I felt this so much so, that the repetition of phrases like “I wish I could, but I have so much to do” or “If I had the time”, “There’s just not enough hours in the day” began to make me irritated at myself for being such a broken record. Not only was I tired of feeling this way, I knew people in my life were tired of hearing this from me.
What I needed was a Sabbath.
It’s what I told myself that I didn’t have time for, despite being convicted of its importance in Christian life. While often grouped with seemingly archaic laws of the ancient world, Sabbath, the practice of Holy Rest is an activity modeled by God in the creation narrative and Jesus in the gospels. Just as work and stewardship are a part of the creation of humanity, so is the necessity of rest.
Sometimes it’s hard to quantify what Sabbath means because it is so ambiguous in itself. God rested. What does that mean? Jesus asserts that it is permissible to do good on the Sabbath. What does that mean? It appears that Sabbath is more than just doing nothing—it is not a sort of accepted laziness, in fact it’s quite difficult.
Sabbath demands our surrender.
It demands a giving up of our own time, work, productivity for the sake of our spiritual lives - our wellness. It declares a day or period of time in which we devote ourselves to trusting that the work which feels so pressing will all be cared for in time. It requires great trust in God, it challenges our tendencies to worry. More than that it confronts our idolatry of time, of productivity, and therefore, security.
Many have quoted the famous excerpt from Luke for good reason:
No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
There may not be many things to say about this verse that have not been said before, but one simple note should be considered about this word Money. The idea that we can choose to put our trust in God or in money is clear and I would venture to say that we have all experienced that pull within our lives. However, it is more than that:
Money (some translations “wealth”) is personified because the word Jesus uses is “Mammon”: it is the trust in security or wealth personified.
Essentially, disciples have the choice between loving and trusting the person Jesus, or the person Security, Productivity, Money Making. Of course none of those things are bad in and of themselves, but that quickly changes when we decide that there is no longer room to trust God as our source of security.
It is easy to forget that when something becomes the center of our lives, it affects every aspect of our lives. For the last several months, my to-do lists, stress and schedule became the center of my life, therefore affecting my spiritual life (which was non-existent), my relationships (which were strained), my mental capacity (which was frazzled) and patience for all things (which was wearing thin).
Sabbath is a gift of freedom.
With just one Sabbath this week, a world of clarity emerged. I had known I needed it, but once I took the time to practice rest, I became motivated to continue it. And though the repetition and discipline of taking a Sabbath is not easy, there is such freedom in it. Freedom to just breathe. Freedom to exhale. Freedom to approach God with all my worries and actually lay them down in prayer, rather than cling tightly to them with all my strength.
There is also freedom for things that bring joy: for quality time, relationships, activities, quiet, exploration, reflection. For everyone it will look a bit different, because we make up a body with many passions and things that bring us life. The point is that trusting the Lord with our lives and time, rejecting the idolatry of non-stop work, is more freeing than constricting. It simply needs to be given an opportunity to revive our souls.
The chances are, if you’re like me, if you see this you think, “That’s great, I just don’t have the time for a Sabbath of any kind”, then you have the most to gain from it. God is offering it, take the freedom in renewal and rest.
Lauren Whitcomb has been serving at A Seattle Church as a volunteer administrative support intern since the start of the year. She is awesome and has blessed our community through helping to care for our younger teens, and via supporting the work Jesus is doing in and through our efforts to be a place where everyone experiences the love and grace of Jesus. She also is engaged to Alex, and they will be graduating from SPU this spring before moving to Chico, CA to work with Intervarsity.