Now and then we have to stop everything. It’s not our choice.
I’m going to give a message on the topic of the Sabbath this coming weekend. The Hebrew word has to do with the cessation of work.
Ironically, I haven’t rested much lately. Saturday was with friends. Then Saturday night was spent on writing projects. Sunday found me exhausted. No amount of coffee could fend it off. But I’m a trooper. After church and lunch, I pushed ahead to finish nearly five hours of research for my upcoming book.
I had scheduled Monday to begin with super early devotionals and then a dead-run for the rest of the day, polishing off admin needs and sermon prep.
My first meeting was with our executive pastor. I had a big cup of Starbuck’s darkest roast—Komodo Dragon.
By the time I got home, I was feeling funny. Not the ha-ha kind.
The funny feeling turned into a nasty stomach bug. It forced me into bed. No problem, I said. I’ll work from there. I ran around and got my notebook and materials together. That simple exertion earned me two unpleasant trips to the restroom. I’ll spare you the details, but it’s the kind of thing that makes you wonder if you’d be better off dead.
The only thing I could do was lie on my back and look at the ceiling.
I had been forced into a Sabbath.
Sometimes that happens. Paul was forced into a long “Sabbath” when he was arrested and spent years in jail. He wrote most of the New Testament during those times. Good stuff happens during sabbaticals.
I wasn’t writing the New Testament, though. I couldn’t even read it. Eye movement seemed to disturb my sick-bed rhythm, and there was nothing else left in me to contribute to the porcelain throne. Dry heaves are such cruel things.
The things you notice when you’re immobilized. Like your hands. I noticed mine for the first time in a while. They looked old. Where did all the time go? That got me thinking about my mortality. It also occurred to me that I’m just busy enough on normal days to avoid thinking about certain things—anxieties, realities, and other thoughts I banish from view because I don’t know what else to do with them.
Then I thought about the Sabbath. God gave a commandment to “Cease!” Orthodox Jews invented codes that would tell you what you were allowed to do on that day. The ‘what’ took precedent over the ‘why.’ Christians add a wrinkle to the whole thing by making a case for a Sunday Sabbath. To many of us, the Sabbath is about the right calendar day.
I’m an evangelical who believes the Sabbath has been fulfilled in Christ—“Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Our rest is in Him. I believe in an everyday Sabbath.
But talk is cheap when you forget to actually rest. You’re supposed to take the time to reconnect with God. Sabbath moves things off your plate at least for a little while, to make room for deeper issues.
Sometimes, for fellows who are full of energy and lots of spiritual theories, God has to drop the Sabbath right on top of them.
And they get to spend the whole day in bed.
Photo credit: Jack Russell