I’ve had a lot of time to think lately. A far-busier-than-average couple of months consumed my time and energy. I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights thinking over life, my work and where I’m being called in my future. In this post I want to focus on a very simple truth that I’m finding so many are missing, especially in the church. It has universal applications for everyone willing to participate. I hope this helps you.
Among many things, we were created to work. From our very insertion into creation we were given the command, and joy, to work. Genesis 2 reveals a pointed account of creation, specifically addressing the creation of mankind; with working as one of the visionary principles.
To not work denies one of the fundamental purposes of our existence. Work is an expression of our creative talents – whether analytical or artistic. But, as with most things humans get our hands on, we taint and spoil that which was meant for good. But we weren’t designed only to work, that’s just a slice of our lives. We were also designed for relationship, peace and communion with God through our participation in Sabbath; a complete ceasing of all work.*
I’ve run into several people over the past year who resist Sabbath. One man told me outright that he wasn’t ready to hear about Sabbath – he works 7 days a week and justifies all of it. That was heartrending for me to hear, but I acquiesced to his request. Yet Sabbath, the last of the seven days God created, highlights what this life is really all about. The fact that the 7th day is the odd-man out in the creation story should cause us to take a closer look at the purpose and scope of that day. Just like a parable of Jesus, there’s a singular point to the message. I believe the point to creation is not just the detailing of how God created, but the purpose for which He created it. That’s what’s so special about the seventh day, it reveals the purpose, vision and passion of God. Sabbath is the glove that slips over the laboring hand, shielding us from the detrimental affects of constant, seven-days-a-week work.
I grew up on a small farm and I learned the art, or stupidity, of working without gloves. Cleaning out animal stalls, stringing fences, working on equipment – all without gloves. That beats up a person’s hands really quickly. Flesh was not meant to endure barbed wire for very long. In my aging I’m learning that gloves can be good. Gloves not only give us grip, but they protect us from the harshness of our work. Sabbath does the same.
Like a glove on the hand, Sabbath gives us grip. The longer I employ Sabbath in both my weekly and daily rhythms, the better traction I have in my work. Ceasing periodically, from absolutely all productive work – I can’t stress that enough – will create traction in your life so you’ll be ready and eager to work. As Ken Shigematsu** says, “We want to work from our rest not rest from our work!"
Like a glove on the hand Sabbath gives strength to our work. There are some jobs where gloves just improve my strength. Working with rope or wire, I can pull harder and longer with a glove than without one. When I rest on one day I am more ready to meet my workdays head-on! I’ve found, as I participate in Sabbath, that I actually look forward to Monday rather than dreading it. I have more strength.
Like a glove on the hand Sabbath protects us from our work. I’ve stated this in previous posts, but it’s important to reiterate it here. Sabbath puts into perspective why we work. No one can work 7 days a week all the time – NO ONE! Some believe they can, but if you take a close look at their lives you’ll find lacking in other areas they were designed for, like relationships, fellowship, connection with the Creator as well as personal peace. You’ll find all sorts of cracks, dysfunction and conflict. Most have gone so long without Sabbath that they’ve become used to or numb to the cracks even justifying the damaged areas of their lives with the excuse that the work they do is too important. People in ministry especially do this.
When we work without Sabbath we are vulnerable, easily torn. Go long enough and those tears become wounds and the wounds become hurts and before you know it you’re toast! Burned out. Fried. Everyone around you will notice and you’ll be the last to see it. I know this personally.
Like a glove on the hand Sabbath reminds us of who we are. This is a new concept for me. When we Sabbath, we slip on the glove of rest, peace and protection that God so dearly wants us to have. We’re reminded that we belong to God first and that He’s in control. When our identity is wrapped up in what we do, we’re on dangerous ground.
So, why do so many fear a Sabbath cease? Perhaps our busyness shields us from the personal issues God so lovingly wants to reveal and change in us? Perhaps, in staying busy we don’t have to deal with our flaws and shortcomings? Perhaps we’ve been so contorted by the pattern of this world that we think this seven-days-a-week work is normal or noble or worse, healthy. But it’s God’s 4th Command that’s specifically designed to unite us to Him and us to others. Only in rest can we truly become all that Jesus died for us to be! In ceasing all work one day a week we declare our dependence on God and independence from hell.
That’s it. The choice is yours. As you look through this blog you’ll find a lot of writings on Sabbath. It’s become a very personal commodity to my wife and me. Apart from the saving sacrifice of Jesus, there’s nothing I’m more passionate about sharing with others than Sabbath. So, learn the beauty that only Sabbath can bring to your life. Ignore the naysayers who think a good work ethic is grinding yourself to dust. Learn to rest. Learn peace.
*A special thanks to Ben Stewart, Director of Envision (www.weareenvision.com) for this articulation.
**For some personal reading, check out “God In My Everything”, by Ken Shigematsu, an excellent resource for developing a personal rhythm based on Sabbath.