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Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Sabbath, Rest, and Guilt

I was sitting in the swinging chair enjoying the spring Phoenix day. It wasn't too hot, and the breeze was refreshing. And I was feeling guilty. Why? Because I wasn't doing anything. I wasn't working. I wasn't being productive. I was on vacation and feeling guilty for being on vacation. How American is that? It took me a whole day, but I finally did it: I stopped feeling guilty about taking a break and resting. I found out what true rest, true letting go feels like. Or may be I remembered how to let go and rest.

Genesis tells us that God created the heavens and the earth in six days and then rested on the Sabbath. Keeping the Sabbath and not working one day a week is one of The Ten Commandments. It is also the commandment that's most often broken by Chrsitians and non-Christians alike. We can wax eloquently all we want to about not taking God's name in vain or not committing murder, but bring up keeping the Sabbath, and the room gets very, very quiet. Why do some branches of American Christianity insist that God created the earth in six literal days, but then fall silent when it comes to taking what God did on the seventh day literally?

And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation (Genesis 2:2-3).

Why is it so hard for us to stop and rest?

On of the reasons is that we have believed the lie that we are what we do. We believe the myth that what we do is who we are. So we work. We perform. We jump through hoops. One of the reason for keeping the Sabbath is to remind us who we really are: children of God. The Sabbath also reminds us that everything we have comes from God. God provides for all our needs. The Sabbath is for remembering: remembering who we are and remembering who God is. God rested on the seventh day, and God commanded us to do the same. If it is okay for God to rest, then it is okay for us to rest as well.

In fact, it is imperative to rest. We need a day where we let go of the worry and stress and our work, and we trust God to take care of us.

The last three Sundays I have rested. In fact, I've even been taking naps. I rested, and I did not feel one iota of guit.

What about you? Do you take time off? How do you rest?

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An Update Merry-Go-Round

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posted by Shawna Atteberry at 2:24 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 5/15/2008 07:50:00 AM, Blogger Deb

    I am a part-timer on a multi-staff church. In addition to church staff, I'm a full time seminarian, wife, mom, etc. SO I guess it depends on what you mean by "day off"! If you mean, just enjoying family and no ministry calls, emails or responsibilities... a couple of times a month. If you mean vacation... once a year. If you mean getting time each week to do things which are not family, ministry or school driven... rarely.

    One of my mentors has been pushing me on the "day off" question. I told her it just doesn't happen frequently, because even if I do get a break from the ministry needs, who is going keep tabs on "life" at home -- to plan dinner, do laundry, etc? Not my husband or kids!

    I don't mean to sound whiny about this. But I have learned that my "rest" comes from hobbies I enjoy like gardening or crafts... the problem is that the media-driven picture of "day off" is male-defined as a hammock somewhere. And I guess that's not realistic.

    Since I am triply "employed" (home, school, church) maybe others can define it differently. For me "rest" is defined in "chunks" not in days. I just have been calling them "off calendar" times so that they are not replaced with other possibly urgent, needed activities...

  • At 5/15/2008 04:15:00 PM, Blogger kristi

    i agree with deb. i am a full-time mother of three (one of whom just started sleeping through the night about 5 days ago!) who also works full time from home, which has its own myriad problems related to rest. but i have figured out that it's when i am in my garden, or writing, or tending to my orchids, or knitting something--these are the times i feel most at rest.

    i think these days even if we try as hard as we can, it's very, very difficult with the present cultural model and pressures to "take a day off." in order to do this for myself, we honestly would need to hire a nanny (but not enough means to do that!) or move our family out to the country and live off the grid. catch me on the right day (a lot these days) and that's what i'm dreaming of...

  • At 5/16/2008 11:29:00 AM, Blogger Shawna Renee

    Deb and Kristi, I'm sorry I didn't get back to you yesterday. I wasn't online much. I agree with both of you that you don't need a whole day off, and I'm glad you both find rest throughout the week. I have been thinking of starting up the hobbies I like on Sunday, and don't seem to have time for. I love to sew and crochet, but I rarely do either.

    The thing that surprised me most was the guilt I felt at not working.

  • At 5/18/2008 08:47:00 PM, Blogger Deb

    Yup, Shawna -
    I think that is what made my mentor do a "GOTCHA" with me -- because I felt guilty. She said, "there will ALWAYS be something more to do, or someone else to call/write/email..."

    She counseled me to set my phone to DND (do not disturb - which automatically switches people to my voicemail) and to NOT open my email when I am "off calendar"...

    I am getting better at it. But, I have had to have people hold me accountable.

    The problem is, ministry combines the things I enjoy the most - people... the Bible... and God. Yeah. Hard to let THAT go.

    Who is at a hotel during her course this week and found the hot tub before she settled in for the night... :)

  • At 5/19/2008 08:00:00 AM, Blogger Lori

    About 10 years ago, my husband and I felt like it was time to try to obey this commandment. It was very clearly a relational thing between us and God, and we knew it wasn't something we could continue to ignore. So we decided to try it...and it was painful! We tend to be high-rpm kinds of folk, and letting things go undone goes against our nature in pretty significant ways.

    We prayed and talked a lot about what obedience really looks like (can we still garden? or bake?) We decided that for us, the best parameter to establish was simple: Is it something we'd put on a to-do list? If so, we don't do it on our "day of rest". If not, enjoy!

    It took several years of practice before Sabbath really took root. There's so much cultural baggage, social expectation, internal drive, etc. But I must say, we now positively revel in that day! As presented in the OT, the Sabbath is a gift of God to God's chosen people, and we feel that chosenness so clearly on our day of rest. It's sheer decadent luxury, and we get to enjoy it only because God's given it to us!


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