I find myself in a ministry context in which teaching and encouraging spiritual disciplines has quickly become a theme. So I am endeavoring to examine various spiritual disciplines with which I am familiar, and maybe some with which I am not so familiar, in this space.
Working with college students reminds me of the hectic pace of life. There always seems to be three or four things to do in the time that should really be devoted to only one or two things. No matter our station in life we bemoan the fact that we just don’t have enough time to do everything that is required of us, much less what we want to do.
The practice of taking a Sabbath, which I define as devoting an entire 24 hour period to rest, relaxation, and a break from anything that could be considered “work,” is completely at odds with the cultural thrust of work harder, work longer and success will follow. It seems especially counter-intuitive in a university setting in which there are multiple readings, assignments, deadlines, projects, and tasks to be completed concurrently at any given time. How can anyone be expected to devote 14% of your week (that’s 1/7 for my math-challenged friends) to deliberately abstaining from work?
For many years I lump myself into this category. I was simply too busy, had too many responsibilities, too much on my plate to take any extended amount of time away from work. My breaking point came as I was trying to finish seminary, managing a coffee shop, and navigating the emotional and psychological landmines associated with an especially difficult 6 months of life. I was simply exhausted. I never had enough time. I was always tired. My stress level was higher than it had ever been and I was simply a chore to be around.
Rediscovering Sabbaths wasn’t even a result of my own initiative. I heard a sermon in which Sabbaths were briefly mentioned and I was almost instantaneously convicted of never having observed one. So, I resolved to do so.
Resolving to observe a Sabbath was a turning point in a dry period of my spiritual life. I was immediately free to enjoy myself, my wife, my friends, and devote some time to things that I just wanted to do. My quiet times were revitalized because I had an occasion to rest. My relationships were renewed because others were not getting the scraps of my energy that remained. My work was better because my mind had a chance to catch up to everything that was on my plate.
For the rest of the week I will examine the biblical foundations, objections, and practical suggestions for keeping a Sabbath. Feel free to chime in.