Posted in Christian Living, Christianity, Faith

Remember the Sabbath?


History buffs know that even after the Reformation, the importance of the Sabbath was so felt that it was legislated well into the early days of the Colonies, punishing those who failed to show up on a Sunday morning as if they had stolen a loaf of bread.
But what were the slackers really stealing? What do we get, and give, from our Sabbath “rest?”
I find myself contemplating these questions at the beginning of this new year, in part because I feel a bit more drained than usual from the year that has passed. I have to ask myself, was the energy output worth it? What exactly did I spend my time on? More importantly, what mistakes will I correct and winning strategies will I repeat in the coming year?
So, all the first of the year resolution business is what brought me around to thinking about the form and function of the Sabbath. Of course, we all know that God Himself chose the seventh day to rest and consider the good work He had done. But have you ever contemplated how often the Jewish religious calendar also called for even the land to rest? At the end of 2 Chronicles, when the Jews have been driven out of their own land by the Babylonians, the chronicler describes the land as having its sabbath rest.
In a world that is not dominated by physical labor for survival, we have inched further and further from the concept of a resting Sabbath. Long gone are those Sundays of our youth when nothing was open except for maybe a gas station. How many of us do our Sunday duty at church, and then drive straight to a restaurant, thereby depriving the waiter, hostess, busboy, and chef of their Sabbath rests? Do we even know how to rest in a world blitzed with electronics we can carry in our pockets and to-do lists much too long to fit into the waking hours of a seven-day week, much less a six-day one if we were to take our resting truly to heart?
Still, as with all of God’s instructions, there is more than just the arbitrary to the Sabbath commandment. Our bodies do need rest, especially in a world where too many of us have fallen victim to what the experts call “chronic stress,” where the body stays in flight or fight mode all the time, the adrenals pumping hormones that are preparing a body for a fight that is actually spending the day in front of a computer screen. Without enough time in a day for our bodies to “stand down,” turning off the fight or flight response and allowing what is known as our parasympathetic system to kick in for the gearing down of the adrenals and hormones, we eventually burn out, mentally and physically. Anxiety, depression, excess weight, and many autoimmune disorders have been linked to this modern-day curse of chronic stress.
So, taking a Sabbath to really embrace the idea of rest is a good idea on many levels, not the least of which is the ability this day of rest can give us to praise God and contemplate our blessings. Have you ever noticed that it is hard to be in a bad mood if you make yourself smile? That’s because the smile action actually triggers feel-good endorphins to be released into our systems.
Throughout the biblical texts, we see God’s joy in being praised and recognized by His people. He created in us a desire to seek Him, in part I think, because He longs to be sought. Remember when Jesus said that the stones would cry out if we would not?
Those who know me realize the irony of me discussing Sabbath observance. As a high-anxiety introvert, my efforts at church attendance are truly acts of discipline on my part. Still, God’s Sabbath can be observed anywhere you are, where two or three are gathered. It may be best observed according to His will in a church, but worship, praise and rest can also occur wherever the faithful are.
Could I truly do it? Could I truly spend an entire Sabbath with no distractions? No television, or computer, or books, no cooking, or laundry, or work projects unfinished, but only the word of God, still moments to hear Him, and my own, clumsy prayers?
Am I willing to risk it for the rewards it offers–gratefulness, compassion, and pleasing my Creator?
Are you?
Here’s hoping our 2012 time management includes some down time with the One above us.

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Author:

I am a 40-something Texan with a feisty cat and a supportive husband of 20 years. With a Master's degree in English with an emphasis on creative writing, I have taught creative writing at Texas Tech, won awards for my writing and been blessed to be mentored by Horn Professor and poet Dr. Walt McDonald. I earn a living by helping my husband's family run a health food store, but my avocation is writing. I hope you enjoy reading about some of my triumphs and tragedies as I continue to work on figuring out what life is all about and on growing my ability to share my writing. May your own journey be a blessed one.

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