“To be or not to be, that is the question” Shakespeare once famously wrote in his play “Hamlet.” For me the question I’m asking myself as 2014 is this: “to be or to do.” Will I spend all my time doing: working, completing tasks, accomplishing goals, etc. Or will I take time to be: Time to be a Dad to my kids, time to be a husband to my wife, time to be a child of God. Time to rest and refresh.
Obviously it’s not one or the other, but one thing that I’ve discovered is that if you don’t take the time to be, you will find that you are more limited in your ability to do.
As 2013 drew to a close, I took some time to evaluate the year, and one thing I noticed was that as the year went on my attitude went significantly downhill. So did my self-discipline. I wasn’t accomplishing as much. I found it easier to be lazy in the 2nd half of the year. I procrastinated more. One of the causes of that, I believe, was my physical health. At the beginning of the year I was exercising and eating healthier because I was attempting to lose weight. And not only did that help me reach my goal of losing weight, but it also made me much more positive and more disciplined. But in addition, I found that at the beginning of the year I was much more guarded and intentional about my Sabbath at the beginning of the year then I was at the end.
We can go wrong in 2 different ways with our view of the Sabbath. We can become legalistic and fail to realize that the Sabbath was fulfilled in Christ and that we are no longer bound by the laws and regulations that we were required of God’s people, Israel. And we can view keeping Sabbath as a way of earning our salvation or earning a “level up” with God. That’s trap #1. Trap #2 is that we ignore the fact that Sabbath was given to us as a gift and that we need a Sabbath.
Our bodies need rest – physically, spiritually and emotionally, we need rest. We need time to simply be, rather than focusing on doing. That means that we don’t do anything. On my Sabbath I do a lot: I do a lot of snuggling while we watch Sesame Street, or Cars with my kids. It means I spend time rolling on the floor with my kids. I spend a lot of time playing peekaboo with Noah or hide-and-go-seek with George and Kelsey. It means that I let my wife sleep in while I get up with the kids. It means I take a nap. I read a book. I read a little more in my Bible or take more time to think about what I’m reading. It means pancake breakfasts, cheese sandwich lunches. Sometimes it means going to the cow place (Vanderwins) or DQ for ice cream. It means spending time listening to my wife. It means getting to eat meals I normally wouldn’t eat with her – breakfast and lunch. All of these are things that often times we few as “wasting time” or “being lazy.” And to be honest, I’ve had to consciously reject those thoughts. They’re not usually things that we put on our “to-do” list, and my “to-do” lists are always very full so it’s a whole day of “getting behind”.
But what I’ve found is that when I take time to be, that the doing comes a lot easier and is a lot more stressful. As a pastor, Sunday is a work day, so that means I have to use a different day as Sabbath. So I choose Friday. There’s often times I wake up on Friday and think, I can’t afford not to spend today on my sermon. If I don’t do it today, I might not get it done on Saturday. I won’t be prepared. But I’ve found just the opposite to be true. When I try to study on Friday, after 6 days of working non-stop, I can’t make any headway with my sermon prep. I end up spending all day Friday and Saturday working on it. But when I take Friday off, Saturdays are generally a lot easier. I’ve found that not only can I afford to take a Sabbath, but I can’t afford not to.
Some weeks there are things that I have to do on my days off. Like today I have to take our car to the shop and run a few errands. I’m not legalistic about it. But I do intentionally not do things, and most importantly I don’t feel bad for not doing things. Sabbath is not only about rest I’ve found, but it’s about trust. Trusting God that when you obey and take a day of rest that He will supply the time and energy to accomplish the things that you really need to do in the remaining 6 days. One of the reasons that we think we can’t take a day off is because we do more than we’re supposed to do, we’ve taken on too much. The solution isn’t to skip Sabbath, it’s to say no.
And lastly, I’ve discovered that Sabbath means different things for different stages of life. When I was a bachelor Sabbath meant sleeping til 10, watching a movie or sporting event, reading a really long portion of Scripture – I’d try to read an entire book in one setting each Sabbath – and spending time with friends. Now, with a wife and 3 kids I can’t do that. But I still need to find ways to take Sabbath, even if it’s just a portion of a day.
My encouragement is to give Sabbath a chance. Don’t make a bunch of rules about it, but just take a day to unplug and be. Be a dad or mom, be a husband or wife, be friend, be a son or daughter. Just take a day to be, and let the doing be put to the side. I think you’ll find like I did, that it’s more than worth it.