By Pastor Jeff Fox-Kline
When was the last time that you truly took a sabbath? I mean truly. Not just a fake sabbath, where you take the day off to get some yardwork done, or catch up on your laundry.
I won’t answer for you, but in my case I think it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of never.
Not that I haven’t ever had days off, because I have. I’ve had days that I have spent washing, drying and folding. I’ve had days that I have spent in the yard pulling weeds, planting, and mowing. But even the days that I have to myself, I end up spending them in some way that feels like obligation.
The idea of the Sabbath is an opportunity to reduce your obligations to allow yourself to feel deeply what gifts God has given to you. It is to rest from your labors, and to spend your day enjoying God and God’s gifts. But I can’t do that. I don’t sit still well. I like to have noise, activity, busy-ness… life stuff that I substitute for real life.
Even the days that I spend doing nothing (vegging out in front of the TV, playing too many hours of video games, etc…) I come away feeling worse than when I went in. The message that the world sends is that if I’m not doing something, then I’m wasting time. And as a parent during the pandemic, I know exactly how precious time is. So when I spend the day in leisure, I end up feeling the guilt of… what? Selfishness? Laziness? Self-imposed regret?
So I haven’t had a Sabbath in a long time. Partly because the world tells me that we need to be busy all of the time, and partly because I tell myself that I need to be busy all of the time.
But if the purpose of Sabbath is to teach us to enjoy God’s gifts for us and to celebrate God in our lives, then maybe it doesn’t mean we can’t "do anything," but rather that we need to make sure that what we do gives us life.
I’m imagining (picture me closing my eyes) what my perfect sabbath is: waking up at 9:00 (an unimaginable luxury), making waffles for breakfast (with the dishes done by my magic dish fairy), prepping a loaf of bread for its first rise. Once the bread is rising, I go on a walk to a playground with my daughter while we play together. I come back home and see that the bread has risen perfectly, so I prep it for its second rise. While that’s happening, I make a delicious sandwich for lunch. By now the bread is in the oven and I’m ready to read quietly while it bakes. After I take it out of the oven I go for a run, followed by a shower. I order some Indian food for dinner and then after dinner I watch a movie with my family.
As long as I’m able to remind myself that I don’t need to do laundry, or check my email, or stare at my phone, that seems like the kind of day in which at the end I’m celebrating God. The God who made the world good and gave us the gift of each other to share in God’s love.
So maybe your Sabbath is the yardwork that you spend your day doing – luxuriating in the gifts of creation. Maybe your Sabbath is spending the entire day in silence, enjoying a good book. Maybe your Sabbath is spent watching your laundry pile dwindle.
Try this sometime soon: find a Sabbath day for you to enjoy. Remind yourself that it’s a commandment. Remind yourself that the world will still be here tomorrow, and today it is just you, God, and whatever brings you two closer.