I have been feeling particularly bummed for a few weeks now. I think part of it is because a lot of my friends from school are now getting their first calls and I want to celebrate with them but it’s hard to do when you’re hundreds of miles away.
The other part is that I’m having difficulty finding a Sabbath rhythm at my job, which is a system shock after having a pretty sweet sabbath routine for the last four years in ministry.
I work a rotation of four days on, two days off, and the four days are split two second shifts (3pm-11pm) and two first shifts (7am-3pm) one of which is a shorter day from 9am-3pm. So a week for me could look something like this:
Friday & Saturday–Off
Because of the rotation, this means my days off in a week are never the same, and coming from a field where the entire career centers (mostly) on one specific day of the week (Sunday), it’s been hard to adjust my sabbath schedule to not having a consistent day off.
A Sabbath is a day of rest and a day to reconnect with God. In the creation of the universe, God spent six days working and rested on the seventh. A couple books later in the Bible, God instructs Moses to write 10 commandments down for instruction for the Israelites (You find the stories of the 10 commandments in Exodus 20:1-17 and in Deuteronomy 5:1-22). The Sabbath is a day of rest from work. It’s a day to, in the words of Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle, “Treat Yo’ Self”. But does Sabbath-ing mean going out and gluttonously devouring thirty ice-cream cones and a couple of ribeyes? Surely not. When we Sabbath, we reconnect to the supply(er) of energy and life. My Sabbath routine for the last four years when I was working in ministry always included: going to local businesses to try something new and meet people in the community; going on long bike rides (to take care of my body); always seeing friends and calling family.
Sabbath comes in three parts: resting, communing, and playing. We rest because we need it and because God commands us to (see above references). In a 2015 Harvard health blog, Dr. John Ross links to a study done in which those who worked over 55 hours per week were at a 13% greater risk for heart attack, and were 33% more likely to suffer a stroke compared to those who work 33-40 hours per week. Resting on Sabbath is meant to keep us healthy and restore us for the rest of the week. If you want to read that blog, you can click here.
When we commune on Sabbath, I mean we meet together for meals, for prayer, for praising and worshipping God, etc. Communing together, whether in meals or in active worship on Sundays, centers around participation in the body. When we partake in the elements on a communion Sunday, we partake knowing that in doing so we affirm our love of Christ and his death until He returns; we partake together not only in our local community but as a global, intercultural, mosaic of believers as numerous as the stars in the sky. We commune together to remind us that we’re not alone and that there are people around who care about our well-being as well.
Finally, Sabbath includes playing. When I read the Bible, I read that God isn’t entirely about rules and regulations. I believe that there are definite boundaries and ‘laws’ that God sets out for His people, however, I also believe that God likes to have fun. I refuse to believe that Jesus’ entire ministry was only about telling creation what we can and cannot do. We’re meant to enjoy life, and enjoy the freedom that God gives us within the boundaries that God sets up. That means we need not feel guilty about going to a movie on our Sabbath, or going out to eat, or going to trivia at the local pizza place because when we are playing on Sabbath, we are celebrating the good things God has given us. We are called to have fun, we are called to play and to enjoy God’s creation because it is good.
I leave you with a few verses from the book of Ecclesiastes. A wisdom book in the Old Testament, Ecclesiastes is a book that wrestles with the meaning of life and the best way to live. The author, sometimes ascribed to King Solomon but this is debated, says everything is “meaningless” (הֶבֶל hebel if you read Hebrew). The author uses this word to say that both the righteous and the foolish both end their life in death, so we should take pleasure in the little things in life (i.e., eating, enjoying work, etc.) The author ends chapter 8 by saying:
15So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.
16 When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe the labor that is done on earth—people getting no sleep day or night— 17 then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it.Ecclesiastes 8:15-17
This is what Sabbath is about. It’s taking a breath, taking a moment to enjoy life because there’s nothing better! When we Sabbath, joy accompanies us in our toils. We don’t get fewer troubles when we Sabbath or when we follow Christ, rather, we get joy in the midst of them.
Friends, take a Sabbath. Rest, commune, play. Working ourselves to death does not impress God. As I struggle to find my Sabbath rhythm in a unique schedule, I pray that each one of you finds your Sabbath rhythm too.