By Mike Glenn
My trainer calls it “recovery time,” those short breaks he gives you after a particular exercise. You do 15 curls and then, you rest thirty seconds or so before you do your next set. Your muscles, according to my trainer, need about a minute to recover between sets and the more intense the sets, the longer the recovery time.
Ultra-athletes, those who run 100 miles or endure an Ironman challenge (swimming, biking, and running) need longer times to recover. The body needs time to heal the damage done during the workout or competition. The muscles need time to repair themselves.
Business magazines are now featuring articles encouraging wired employees to unplug at least one day a week. Turn off the cell phones; shut off the computers; find a quiet place and let your mind and soul recover. Experts are discovering we need time off. There are now digital detox camps where you go to learn how to live without our electronic devices. People are throwing parties and when you arrive, they extend to you a basket where you and all of the other guests have been asked to put their phones so the party can continue without the interruptions of checking text messages, emails and surfing the web.
Everyone now agrees. Human beings can’t live – we certainly can’t live well – if we’re “on” 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We need to recover. We need a break.
We need Sabbath.
When I was growing up, Sunday was a day of endurance. I grew up in a conservative Baptist home that believed Sunday was created for church going. We went to Sunday School and worship on Sunday morning and we had Church Training and Worship on Sunday night. Then, of course, because we’re Baptist, we went out to eat. By Monday morning, we were all exhausted.
That’s not Sabbath.
Yes, Sabbath is about worship, but not in the way most of us experience it. Most of us think of worship as an event, something we attend. Worship, in the biblical sense, is something we experience. Worship is an encounter with the Divine that defines reality for the worshipper. Sabbath is the moment when, aware of the greatness and goodness of God, we allow our lives to be aligned to His divine purposes. Our priorities are reordered. Our values are rethought and our destinies redefined.
Worship begins Sabbath, but Sabbath doesn’t end there. Sabbath also invites reflection. We live very fast lives. We jump from moment to moment, event to event, without taking any time to fully understand what we’ve just experienced. Life ends up coming at us so fast, we do things just to get things done. We don’t know if they’re good things to do or not. We don’t know if they need to be done at all. We just do them because it’s the next thing on the list.
Without Sabbath, too many of will find ourselves making really good time to a place we don’t want to go.
One of the great ironies of life is while we have so many choices, only a handful of choices actually matter. Ask anyone who’s just been given a terminal diagnosis. They can tell you. Most of the stuff we clamor for in life isn’t worth it. Sabbath allows us to find the time to focus and refocus on those things that matter. Loving your spouse. Loving your children. Enjoying time with good friends. Sabbath gives you the time and space to remember what matters.
We often forget Sabbath is God’s gift to us. God gave us one day a week to enjoy Him and each other. Sabbath is a day when we can take the time to watch a sunrise or sunset. We can count stars until we run out of numbers. We can take our time talking to our spouses or children, knowing our conversations need not be rushed because we have nowhere to go and nothing to do but sit there and be present to each other.
Sabbath returns our joy. Joy is different from happiness. Happiness is momentary. It’s here and then, just as quickly, it’s gone. Joy is something different. Joy abides. Joy stays. Joy is the foundational understanding the world is beautiful and underneath it all, good. Joy is the confidence that in the end, God will finish – and finish well – what He has started. Sabbath gives us the time savor life.
The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is usually a pretty down week. No one has much planned during these few days. A lot of us have to travel to see family, but even with that, these are pretty lazy days.
Don’t waste them.
Use them wisely. Use them religiously. Take some time to think about last year. What worked? What didn’t? Think about 2018. What do you want to happen in the coming year? What steps will you need to take to insure what you want to happen actually happens? What do you need to leave in 2017? What are you reaching for in 2018?
These are the kinds of questions we need to ponder to give meaning to our lives. They are the questions that focus a well spent Sabbath. These are the kind of moments that give our lives meaning and purpose. Most people find Sabbath experiences so helpful they end up doing them about once a week.
So, go ahead. Take a day off. Sit and do nothing. Let your mind wander. Let your soul find direction. Exhale. Heal. Worship. Wonder. Rest.
God Himself thinks it’s a good idea.