I recently started reading a book titled 24/6 by medical doctor Matthew Sleeth. It is a book about Sabbath rest. I have read other books about slowing down, adding Margin to busy lives, and spending time with God. I’m no stranger to the fourth commandment:
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:8-11, NKJV)
It is the longest commandment and seems fairly explicit when it spells out that servants or strangers are not even allowed to do our work for us. Everything must stop.
I have heard debates over whether the “true” Sabbath is Saturday or Sunday, and I have pondered how to rest and keep it holy without crossing into a set of strict rules that miss the point. I have read about extra Manna provided for the seventh day and Jesus gathering food on the Sabbath to eat. And I wonder what it means to “remember the Sabbath” in this time, in this culture, in my life.
Matthew Sleeth contemplates the impact of “forgetting the Sabbath” on our individual lives and society as a whole. As Sleeth says:
Subtracting a day of rest each week has had a profound effect on our lives. How could it not? One day a week adds up. Fifty-two days a year times an average life span is equal to more than eleven years. Take away eleven years of anything in a lifetime, and there will be a change. Subtract over a decade of sleep, work, or education, and the entire character of one’s existence is altered. Multiply eleven years times a third of a billion Americans, and you are looking for a lost continent of time. Unfortunately, in our society, it’s not Monday that got mislaid; it’s our Sabbath, our day of rest. If there is to be any hope for recovering the Sabbath, we must first admit that something is missing. (Sleeth, p. 8)
As I push myself to “do more” in this 24/7 world, I suspect that something is, indeed, missing. Like the leech’s two daughters (Proverbs 30:15), the voice in my head echoes the world, crying “Give, give!” But just as the Proverb claims, no matter how much I accomplish, satisfaction sprouts wings and flies away. Perhaps the missing piece is in the stopping.
When I applied for my first real job at the age of 16, I marked Sunday as “unavailable” on my application to preserve it as a day of rest to spend time with my family and honor God. A few days after I was hired, I saw that I had been scheduled to work on the coming Sunday. I took the schedule to the manager on duty and explained that I was not available for Sunday shifts. Annoyed, she remarked that they didn’t hire people who didn’t work Sundays because it was their busiest day. I explained that I had clearly marked it on my application and had still been hired. She pulled my application from the file, saw that I was indeed unavailable on Sundays, and grudgingly removed my name from the schedule. I filled three different roles for that company over the next year, but I never worked a Sunday.
There are two companies that have made headlines for their commitment to taking a day off – Chik-fil-a and Hobby Lobby. These two popular franchises are closed on Sundays so their employees can worship and spend time with family. Their Christian founders take the Sabbath seriously.
My goal is not to argue for a specific day of the week; rather, I see the pattern of six days working and one day stopping as the template to guide rest. When I think about stopping I wonder how I will fit everything into even less time. I consider the possibility of lost profits and productivity. I contemplate whether my work can really wait a day, a whole day, for me to pick it up again.
Then I think about God resting on the seventh day of creation and blessing the day, making it holy. I want to find this missing day. I want to take the Sabbath seriously and see what God can do with my six days when I stop on the seventh. I’m not sure what will happen, but I’m looking forward to finding out.
What about you? How do you make time to rest? Share your ideas by posting a comment.