Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because on it he rested from all the work of creating he had done. —Genesis 2:1-3
Last Sunday, we focused on rest as we completed our study of the creation week at the beginning of Genesis. In conjunction with that service, Melissa Bull asked me to share about my experience with Sabbath.
Sunday is a different day for me than the rest of the week. Since I was in high school, I have consistently chosen to set aside this day to rest and refocus. It has been characterized in part by what I refrain from doing: I don’t do homework on Sundays or paid work or clean my house or apartment. However, it has been equally marked by the things I do do on this day. This has by far been the more important aspect. My specific Sabbath activities have changed over the years as my season of life and my resultant needs have changed. In general, however, they have included activities such as long meals with friends, physical rest, creative ventures, time in nature, times of solitude and time with God.
This practice has proved challenging on several levels. Not surprisingly, there is always more work that could be done. Taking Sabbath forces me to stop and to set those tasks aside for a period of time. As a Type A perfectionist, this is not easy! In addition, my decision to observe Sabbath did not mesh well with the weekly rhythm of others in my community. In college, it was common for friends to take Friday evening off or to spend a chunk of Saturday doing something off-campus. They would then buckle down on Sunday to study. Because I did not do homework on Sunday, I had to plan the early parts of my weekend more carefully. This sometimes meant declining invitations from friends only to find them studying when I was free.
Despite these challenges, Sabbath has been one of the most rewarding spiritual practices I have attempted. To begin, by stopping for a day in the middle of finals or a demanding week at work, I am reminded that it is not all up to me. My performance and these responsibilities do not define who I am. Sabbath is a weekly reminder and a tangible sign of my trust in God.
In addition, my practice of Sabbath had an unexpected result. It was hard to put my books down Saturday evening, especially when an exam was looming on Monday. While this was not always the case, on several occasions I found that when I returned to my studies Monday morning I remembered and understood the material noticeably better than I had Saturday night. Sometimes that time of rest away from my work actually prepared me to do a better job when I returned to it.
Finally, once my practice of Sabbath had become a part of the rhythm of my life, I found that I eagerly anticipated it. When life is most stressful, I often find myself counting down the days until I can step away from my work and rest. Similarly, there have been times when something comes up and engaging in a form of work on the Sabbath is unavoidable. There is undoubtedly grace in these situations. But even in that grace, I find that I miss that time of rest and long for the next Sabbath more acutely.
Like any discipline, practicing Sabbath has required effort and intentionality. But the fruits that have resulted from this practice have far outweighed the costs.
Thank you to Sarah Seibert for sharing her experience!