Have you ever wondered why it’s so hard to just “stop”? Why you can’t seem to get off the merry-go-round of life’s impossible schedules and demands? Such sentiments were mirrored on the cover of the September 15th issue of the Time Magazine entitled, “Never Offline”. Technology is keeping us always on and connected. It seems that scarcely a moment goes by where our devices don’t vibrate, ring or chirp, or beep out a Facebook alert, ever prodding us to always be “on”.
Most people would agree that anything constantly in motion will eventually break down. Some call it the Law of Decay or atrophy and it is proof that nothing lasts forever. There is an ancient term used in the Scriptures that is so relevant to this modern day “always on” culture – The word is “Sabbath” and it was given to mankind in the 4th Commandment. Why would God add to the list of “Don’ts” a command to rest? Why would stopping to smell the roses be as important as not murdering or stealing?
Because Sabbath resonates with the way we and the world were created.
It says in Genesis that God created the world in six days and rested the seventh. Even the Creator of the universe who never “sleeps or slumbers” took a Sabbath indicating to us that there is more to Sabbath than just rest. It’s almost as if the world was not complete until its Builder paused and beheld it. When we stop, we are brought into equilibrium with the way we were created.
Pressing the pause button also reminds us, as Abraham Heschel puts it that, “The world has our hands, but our soul belongs to Someone Else”. My identity doesn’t come from things I own or do, but from the One who created me. But how many have lost their souls to the rat race, never stopping enough to discover who they really are?
In today’s world, Sabbath is the hardest mandate to live out because overwork is seen as noble in our culture. It’s hard to receive something you didn’t hard work to earn.
This may be a stretch for some, but I believe something deep inside us all confirms the truth of this. Here is what I mean: Part of the Sabbath tenet says that God gave us 6 days to get it done. Picture these neat boxes of time slots against the backdrop of eternity. In these slots, we are “On”, we subdue, wrestle, control, take, produce, run, give out, and more. Into these boxes, we pour all of our energy, blood, and sweat. We become master jugglers of these spinning boxes as they turn faster and faster and pray that none fall.
These spaces however are consumed with one word, “doing” and never take into account the way we were created. All though we were created to “DO”, as Adam and Eve worked hard tending the garden, we were also created to “BE” – That’s where hitting the pause button comes in.
Sabbath was given to prevent burnout of body, soul, and spirit. It brings things eternal into relief as we stop enough to reflect, rethink, and reenergize. This is “being”
We must pause long enough to put down the spinning boxes that enslave us to time and nurture the things that time management could never satisfy – our souls . . . thus, The Sabbath was given.
I have spoken with people who have endured life altering experiences such as traumatic events, losses, or near-death encounters. They often speak of how they were jarred out of a complacent-wrong focus and into a moment of clarity now seeing how unimportant those spinning boxes in time are, how few they have left, and how absurd they look against the backdrop of eternity.
But we needn’t learn these lessons in such a dramatic way. We can chose to stop and create sacred spaces in time. The fact is, there will never be enough hours to get it done, so why not hit the pause button and renew, rethink, and reflect?
There’s an old story of two lumberjacks. One worked all day non-stop. The other lumberjack stopped and took multiple breaks, including a relaxing lunch. “I don’t get it,” the nonstop lumberjack said. “Every time I checked, you were taking a rest, yet you chopped more wood than I did.” “But you didn’t notice,” said the winning woodsman, “that I was sharpening my ax when I sat down to rest.”