Sometimes I think I'm more important than God. This does not come in the form of grandiose delusions of my cosmic power. I do not go around demanding the worship of the masses. I claim my deity by simply refusing to rest. And when I refuse to rest, to stop, to cease my daily striving to be productive and to make an impact, the Bible says I'm acting like I'm more important than the Creator. Because even God rested.
For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:11)
Now don't get me wrong. I have actually built in a regular rest day, a Sabbath, every Monday. Since one of my most intense "work" days is Sunday, I take Mondays to stop, rest, and enjoy life and reflect. I don't turn on the computer. I silence my phone. But I think that a fully human life for me requires regular rhythms of rest at various daily, weekly, quarterly, yearly. And, up to this past weekend when we went camping for four nights, Steph and I hadn't rested from our Sunday "work" for nearly two years. One of my fellow pastors texted me this week: "I think we need to carve out more [times away] for you or you won't be able to make it for the long-haul."
The Jewish author and mystic Abraham Joshua Heschel once wrote, "The Sabbath is the most precious present mankind has received from the treasure house of God." Sabbath is a precious gift that releases us physically, emotionally, and spiritually from the false notion that the world, or our part of it, can't keep spinning without us. In other words, it releases us from the pressure of being God when we most certainly are not. It frees us to live into our limitations.
Something this weekend taught me more starkly than usual is that Sabbath requires community. That's why every bit of the Sabbath part of the 10 Commandments is communal. The fourth commandment includes employers and those who work for them. Farmers and their animals.
It really takes all of us in the community committing to create restful space and time for any of us to receive Sabbath on an ongoing basis. For example, this week, at least a half-dozen people in our community stepped up to set-up, tear-down, bring coffee, welcome visitors, and lead various elements of the service in the Steph's and my absence. When I asked how it went, one person told me, "We learned that Kyle...is not indispensable." What a relief. What a gift.
Are there things in your life you have trouble trusting God to sustain? A job, a relationship, a side-hustle about which you think, "If I step away from this for a second, it might fall apart?" If so I'd encourage you to do two things:
- Take a deep breath and remind yourself (or even better let God's Spirit remind you in prayer) that you are not the Creator nor Sustainer of the universe, or even your little piece of it. You are a limited human being.
- Then take a look around the community. How can we support you in your practice of Sabbath? Can we cook meals for you? Plan picnics in the park? Text reminders to each other on Saturday night that we don't have to produce on Sunday? And how can you support others in their rest?
Friends, there is a freedom in our limitation. There is a power we experience when we admit we're not God. It turns out Jesus was right: Sabbath really was made for us.