Friday, February 10, 2012

Remember the Sabbath and Rest!

A few days ago I slept for 13 hours over a 24 hour period.

I can’t remember a time I was so worn out—physically, mentally, emotionally, and dare I say spiritually.  I was completely drained.  Physically I had pushed myself extremely hard, mentally I was planning and preparing for a weekend class, emotionally I had been stretched to my limits at work; my spirit was dragging.
The night before I had arrived in Tulsa and was staying with some friends.   I felt like a zombie when I arrived at their house and they encouraged me to get some rest, yet I was determined to rise early and begin what I hoped to be a productive day. At 9:30 pm that night I set alarm for 7:05am yet eventually that got “snoozed”  back to 8:35am and I eventually dragged myself out of bed; I didn’t want them to think of me as lazy! It wasn’t more than 3 hours later I was back in bed after struggling to keep my eyes open while reading. I awoke over two hours later—slightly embarrassed and ashamed of my slothfulness. Yet, had it really been simply indolence?

As I walked around the house hoping to rouse from my slumber, I perused the bookshelves and my eyes fell upon a title which spoke to my current predicament. A book by Richard H. Lowery, Sabbath and Jubilee, met my eyes with pleasant surprise; I had heard mention of the book before yet never seen it firsthand.  Here I had been, embarrassed by my weariness and was now holding in my hands words which emphasized the importance of rest.  I’m not the most spiritual person, but it seemed to me more than a coincidence.
“Individuals and families today face a spiritual crisis. We are overworked, stressed out, in debt, and chronically neglecting the basic disciplines of spiritual growth and family nurture…Our spirits hunger for wholeness” (1-2).  Lowery summarizes the demands placed upon individuals, families, and even nations and writes his book to “bring the healing wisdom and critical challenge of ancient biblical sabbath tradition into conversation with our own stressed out, overworked, spiritually starving world” (5).

Sabbath is a principle found in the Hebrew Bible or Christian Old Testament which emphasized rest and the forgiveness of debt.  Even in (one of) the Genesis creation story we read that on the seventh day, God rested, it was a story of sabbath’s origin.  Even if it was not always followed, the vision was of a constant theme of rest and restoration.

If we try to think back about the culture and society in which Sabbath came to be, we can understand who Sabbath was intended for—the least fortunate.  It was the laborers, the slaves, the poor who would have to work every day of their life to maintain their existence; and the principle of Sabbath addressed their situation entirely.  The slaves would be freed their seventh year of service, the poor would have their debts forgiven, and the laborers would have a chance to rest. It was about rest and relief for “the most vulnerable” (121).
Lowery speaks to the overly busy people we are; “we must figure out boundaries (and) set limits to the ubiquitous workplace (and) find ways to deliver sufficient and timely relief for families (and our) communities” (149). 

After my long day of rest I was truly able to appreciate the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual value of rest. Society tells us fulfillment is found in working and achieving the “American dream,” some believe work is “God-ordained,” but the Bible says sometimes it’s more important just to rest; so sleep in, get some rest, and don’t feel guilty.

Remember the Sabbath—rest!

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