Monday, September 5, 2016

Labor Day weekend is a good time to give some thought to work-rest balance. This is a particularly difficult topic for Americans. We like to work. Many of us are happiest when we're being productive. Yet rest is prescribed by God; Sabbath is commanded.
I have spent a fair amount of time thinking about Sabbath. I didn't worry about it before I started church work because I had Sundays off, and I went to worship in the morning, and then generally goofed off in the afternoon. Eventually, I realized that I was no longer taking a whole day off from work. I felt like a hypocrite teaching confirmation and talking about the commandments - no room for smugness when I got to the Third. So I started looking around for a way to observe the Sabbath commandment in a God-honoring way.
One essential part of Sabbath is that it is holy - set apart, treated with reverence, held as special. The other is that there is rest. Orthodox Jews observe this so strictly that they won't even flip a light switch on the Sabbath, but that kind of observance would be work (not rest) for me. I believe true Sabbath is an interruption in daily life that turns me toward God, a change of routine that will actually create a restful oasis in my overloaded life.
What I finally chose to do was not complicated. I set aside 24 consecutive hours each week where I refrain from driving my car and spending money. In the beginning it was hard. Then one day I realized that in practice, Sabbath is observed sundown to sundown, and that made all the difference for me. These days my Sabbath practice usually takes place between 6pm Thursday and 6pm Friday, not a usual time but it works for me. These two simple changes slow me down and also create space for rest and prayer. I may be folding laundry, but the slower pace brings me to a place of gratitude for the ordinary. Hot water and clean towels are luxuries I rarely give thanks for. . . occasionally I slip up and hit the "buy now with 1-click" button, but on the whole, it is time away and, I believe, accords me Sabbath benefits.
As the slower days of summer draw to a close, I plan to continue my counter-cultural practice and I hope you can find your own ways to keep Sabbath. If you can't begin to imagine this - start with an hour. I would love to hear about your reactions to experimenting with Sabbath or your established Sabbath practices. Please share!