Sabbath… A Key to Freedom

When was the last time you turned it ALL off? I mean, literally turned every aspect of your work and all of its accompanying technology completely off?



Seems impossible?


The disruptive Covid-19 crisis may paint a temporary picture of change, but the truth is that we have all just found different ways to keep working. We still live in a 24x7x365 world that tethers us to constant information flow and work access.


Any boundaries that exist between your work life and your personal life come directly from the result of stubborn personal courage.


Ask yourself a few exposing questions: Have you ever finished a vacation feeling like it simply wasn't enough to fully recharge your batteries? (Did you even take a real vacation from work in the past 12 months?) During a date night or family adventure, do you check work-related email? Do you regularly check email, respond to text messages, or return work-related phone calls during the weekend? Does the notion of an entire day every week where you are completely disconnected from work seem like a naive pipe dream?


If you answer yes to any of the above, then this article is specifically for you.

I propose that the ancient command, “honor the Sabbath,” is God's brilliant provision for breaking the chains of our cultural bondage to drivenness and overwork. As a matter of fact, I believe each of the Ten Commandments offer revolutionary strategies for freeing us from our cultural captivity in many forms. But, I’ll save the other nine for another day.


“Sabbath” is easy to understand. It simply means “cease.” “Rest.” “Stop.” Translation: take a break from your work. Take a break from your ministry work if you’re a pastor or some other ministry leader.” Don’t over think this. Our problem is not one of understanding, it is that our modern way of life in this always-connected-world makes sabbath-keeping seem impossible


It means exactly what you think it does. Stop working. Take a 24-hour respite, to let your soul catch up with your body.

I have been thinking a lot about the importance of sabbath-keeping because I need it. It feels like my work is never finished. There is always more to be done. People I work with are scattered in different time zones across half the world. Sometimes I feel like I have to let work to blend over into evenings and weekends because, well, stuff just needs to get done.


However, I think God foresaw my wiring. Probably yours, too. He knew we would have a tendency to say, “just one more thing.” “I probably shouldn’t, but tonight—or this weekend—is an exception.” “This situation at work right now can’t possibly survive without my immediate attention.”


God knew our long term relational and personal health would benefit by turning the motor off for a little while every week. He knew we needed a forced discipline to loosen our death grip on the belief we are indispensable. He knew that the weekly choice of trusting him with our economic vibrancy is essential for sustaining the health of our souls.


The question then is, “how the heck do we pull it off now and then? Not to mention every week!”

  1. It starts in our heads. Start by telling yourself that one day out of seven is off limits to work. Unless you believe it everything else is merely wishful thinking.

  2. Give your colleagues a heads up. This is a new habit they weren't expecting. People need to see they are not an exception to your commitment to cease from all work.

  3. I think the next step is just it. Shut things down. Stop it!

  4. By shut down, I mean, shut down. Don’t check the technological conduits. Don’t open email. If you look at personal communication, don’t be seduced to “check your work stuff just in case."

  5. Leave your laptop closed. Leave those file folders in your backpack. Leave those voice messages in your “inbox.” Need I go on?

  6. Stick to it. Their email will still be there in the morning.

  7. Now, deliberately fill the space you just created with life-giving and relationally meaningful activities. Do something with this gift of time. Read a book. Do something fun and adventurous with your kids. Go to the gym without any time pressure to get back. Make an investment in yourself that feels luxurious.


My favorite image of a sabbath came from Pete Scazzero. He likened the Sabbath to a “snow day.” On a snow day, everything shuts down and everyone understands you will not be available. As a result, people play games, bake their family’s favorite meal, laugh, and in general shut out the outside world. (See Pete's book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.)


One day a week. Every week. From the beginning of creation. The King of the Universe demonstrated sabbath and commanded us to do the same. I dare you to break the chains of bondage to our 24/7 addiction and choose a road less traveled. Your soul will thank you. Not long from now you will wonder how you ever managed to live another way.

--Gary


As you experiment with Sabbath, I'd love to hear your stories.

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© 2020 by Gary Mayes