Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
As a good Christian I grew up understanding that all of the 10 commandments were to be kept, except the Sabbath one. Christians don’t keep the Sabbath anymore, I was told. The only real explanation I was given was that the holy day for Christians was now Sunday, thus the Sabbath regulation did not need to be observed. What never made sense with this logic was that just because the day for assembling with Christians changed from Saturday to Sunday should not in itself cause the non observance of this command, but that was the logic. Therefore there was never a recognition of the need for Sabbath.
As I grew older I began to ponder this whole Sabbath idea. What would it look like to practice Sabbath? What are the benefits of keeping a regular Sabbath? How would my life have to change, or the life of my family change, if I was to keep the Sabbath? And while I’ve flirted with the idea in the past, I’ve never been dedicated enough to strongly think through the ramifications of what it would really mean.
So instead I studied. I tried to read books about what it meant to keep the Sabbath. I studied the Old Testament and the writings of the Pharisees. I tried to find information from the Rabbis and how they interpreted the passages. I read some of the desert fathers and mothers and the benefits they received from times of rest and reflection. And my knowledge grew.
But it wasn’t until I started developing some friendships with practicing Jews and discussing with them the idea of Sabbath that it really started to make sense. Honor the Sabbath is so much more than just not working. It’s a mindset, it’s a way of life. Sabbath is about putting everything in its proper perspective and recognizing that God is Lord of all, including our lives. Sabbath is understanding that life can not be lived always with the foot pressed to the pedal and driving as fast as possible. Sabbath is realizing that the world will continue to function perfectly well without my help for one day because I’m not the one keeping the world moving in the first place. And Sabbath is realizing that while the world will continue to function without me working 24/7, I will not continue to function unless I find ways to slow down and relax and spend time with God.
For me this comes through the discipline of silence. Sometimes it’s a day, sometimes it’s a few hours, sometimes it’s as little as thirty minutes. The amount of time is not as important as the reality of intentionally spending time with God, to enjoy God. It’s closing the computer and turning off the phone and being with God. Not thinking about the project that is due at work or the laundry that needs folded or the grass that needs cut, but thinking about God. Spending time in prayer, reading a psalm over and over again, going on a walk not for exercise but to enjoy God’s creation. And often when I take the time to slow down I start to realize how worn out I am from the hurry of life and in the silence God restores me and renews me and rejuvenates me. I’ve come to value these times of silence as the only thing that gives me the energy to live.
We live in a culture that is constantly plugged-in. With smartphones and tablets and constant travel, many of us can’t remember the last time things were silent and still. We can’t remember the last time we enjoyed Sabbath, intentional time to relax with God, with no agenda at all. But studying more scripture won’t get us there and trying to plan when you can take a Sabbath (when it is most convenient) won’t get us there. Sabbath is something you just have to do. You have to force yourself to take. God didn’t just command us to take a Sabbath because he wanted to give us another rule to follow. He commanded Sabbath because he knew what was best for us and that the practice of Sabbath was the only way to live.
So shut down the computer, turn off the phone, and intentionally spend time relaxing with God. It will do more for you than you would ever imagine.