"...a day for the sake of life"

When I was in college, I had to deal with a major obstacle in the way I saw myself, in the way I perceived my identity. I had come to the realization that I was not a machine. Now, this may sound like a no-brainer--of course I'm not a machine--but I had developed the habit of fixing my personal value on what I could do, what I could produce, what I could accomplish, and how I could contribute. In the same way that we value a machine for its productivity and efficiency, I was analyzing my self-worth. My value was in what I did and so I became a stressed out, overwhelmed, and busy person. Failure was difficult for me to handle and so I avoided vulnerability at all costs. I was what I could do. But, as I said, I came to a realization that all this was not true. I began reading about the Sabbath. (Specifically, I was reading Marva Dawn's book Keeping the Sabbath Wholly.)

I have not “graduated” or “arrived” in regard to Sabbath. Without a real plan, I’m very prone to wandering back to my machine identity.

Sabbath may seem like a disconnected ancient ritual but it's a whole lot more than that. God gave us the Sabbath not just as a ritualistic practice but as a rhythm for life and a window into our true value as human beings. You see, as we become busier and busier, more committed and more efficient, we begin to wrap our identity in our work and it becomes more and more difficult to understand being in isolation from doing. Even our understanding of the purpose and idea of rest can get hijacked by our culture of productivity.

Why do we rest? When we are all about doing, our answer will likely be something like, "we rest in order to be rejuvenated so that we can be more productive." Rest becomes a means to an end, the end being more work. But in the Bible the idea is different. In Genesis 1, God finishes the work of creation and only then does God rest. If rest was about rejuvenating for the sake of working, God may have rested half-way. But God’s rest was more about basking in creation than rejuvenation. In Deuteronomy 5 it says, "six days you may work and do all your tasks, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God." The point is not the work. Work itself in a means to an end... Sabbath is about enjoying that end, it's about celebrating the point of all your work.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, one of my favorite Jewish theologians, wrote,
"The Sabbath is a day for the sake of life. Man is not a beast of burden, and the Sabbath is not for the purpose of enhancing the efficiency of his work. 'Last in creation, first in intention,' the Sabbath is 'the end of the creation of heaven and earth.' The Sabbath is not for the sake of the weekdays; the weekdays are for the sake of the Sabbath. It is not an interlude but the climax of living." 
That is why the Sabbath is a day "unto the Lord." It's because life itself is, "unto the Lord," our very identity as human being--created in God's image--is "unto the Lord." Our families,our jobs, our involvement in church is all God's and God is in all of it.

So we need to slow down, we truly do. We need to stop over-committing ourselves, even to good things, because the work is not the point of it all. The work we do is a means to an end, the end ultimately being God--enjoying God in our families, in our relationships, in our meals, etc.

So my challenge to you is this: Try engaging in life with a rhythm of rest. Take the time to enjoy things. Slow down enough to realize what’s most important in life and what’s most vital to your spiritual growth and identity. Slow down and realize that being overwhelmed with busyness and productivity does not have to be a part of who you are. Indeed, you were created for something much better.

Read Doug Fields thoughts as well... A Model For Sabbath