As I stare out the window of my office, the sun going down this Friday night, I recognize that I’ve arrived at the Sabbath day and I am not keeping it. Literally. It is now Sabbath and I am at work. And the work I’m doing is the final preparation for a funeral in the morning. Also on the Sabbath.
Yes, we Christians have taken to marking and keeping Sabbath in a different manner than our ancestors did. And GOD totally knows that I am not the world’s greatest Sabbath-keeper.
I have proven these last two weeks that I am also breaking the spirit of the Sabbath. I worked every day of Holy Week and every day of Easter week. I took no rest and made no time for it. Not true rest. Not the rest prescribed by GOD in the earliest laws. Not in the “do nothing for 24 hours” way or in the “take this time on the 7th day because GOD took that time” way.
As a church leader, this is bad news. If I am setting this example, then how am I to help others overcome the scourge of overworking?
And just so nobody is confused, this isn’t about putting in grueling hours or proving anything to anyone. This isn’t a humblebrag (look how much I work, losers!) or a self-indulgent plea for sympathy. This is me saying I tried to make time in the last two weeks and failed.
My excuse this weeks is a funeral tomorrow. And last week, I had 7 services to plan and prepare homilies for.
However, the Sabbath command, isn’t
Do no work (unless there’s something really super-duper important, then by all means, have at it!)
Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work–you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
On the Sabbath, we are to do no work. The work ends when the clock strikes. No overtime allowed.
For two weeks, I have observed and given of myself. I have been faithful and devoted. I have mustered all that is within me and given it over to GOD.
But I haven’t rested.
Today I tried. But still, there’s so much to do. So I made a couple of calls, sent a few emails, came into the office, worked on the bulletin and am waiting as it prints. This was to be my Sabbath for this week–all the more noteworthy given my lack of Sabbath last week. But I couldn’t. The work invaded my rest. I couldn’t relax. I couldn’t give thanks. I was anxious about tomorrow and all that I would have to do in the morning.
And my commitments: to not only church, but to my family and my writing. Even the commitment to care for my well-being can feel as a weight that drags me down.
This is the reason we have Sabbath. For without Sabbath, we succumb to the pressures to be what we are not and to do what we aren’t to do. The pressures to compete and achieve. The pressures to be better than our neighbors and holier than our friends. To be efficient and powerful, rather than creative and humble.
I wish so much to be thankful. To be patient. To be at home with my family, getting my daughter to bed. Reading Holes to her, as we are getting so close to the end. I want to rest.
So much church, so much work.
Maybe I’ll be able to make some time next week. Maybe I’ll give to GOD this which I am commanded to give: as one of our most essential and sacred commitments. The true sacrifice. My time to rest.