Stopping for Sabbath Even When There’s More to Do

Last night I sat down with my family for Sabbath supper. I had been hoping to get certain things done before Sabbath began. But I didn’t. There were unfinished tasks all around me.

There are always unfinished tasks all around me.

But I still practice Sabbath.

I told someone recently that even if my Sunday sermon isn’t done before Sabbath starts, I don’t continue working on it until Sabbath is over.

I’m learning to trust that God honours this.

More, to ignore my need for Sabbath to get something else done—including a sermon—is an act of hubris, of pride, of anxious striving. To insist on finishing a sermon on, say, Saturday morning when I’m supposed to be resting is to insist that I need to make this happen or it won’t.

Obviously, I make every effort not to put myself in the position of needing to work on my sermon after Sabbath begins. Even so, in what or in whom do I trust? Am I letting anxiety or guilt be the driving force in my doing?

My anxiousness over unfinished tasks or chores is hardly limited to sermons. Usually it’s other things. And more important than the tasks themselves is my mindset when thinking about them or when engaging in them.

Sabbath means stopping and letting go. I don’t have to control everything. I can’t control much anyhow. But I live with the illusion of control, this persistent belief that without my effort things will fall apart.

This past week I went on a 4 day pastor’s retreat. Since I am the primary cook and have a more flexible work schedule than my wife who is a teacher, being away for that time meant my family had to get along without me.

And they did. Things didn’t fall apart. Not even close.

If this was the case this week, how much more so with God when I take Sabbath? Am I so indispensable to the world and to what God is doing that I can’t take 24 hours to rest and recalibrate? How arrogant would it make me to live that way?

When we live in such a manner that we never slow down, never allow ourselves quiet, solitude, rest, and Sabbath, we’re endangering our souls. We’re dehumanizing ourselves and those around us. We become human doings instead of human beings. How we see and treat ourselves becomes how we see and treat others.

Because there’s always more to do. Always. Even when we ignore our need for Sabbath. Ignoring Sabbath doesn’t make us more productive. And even if it does, who cares? By whose priorities are we living? Whose agenda are we serving?

Practicing Sabbath is in part learning to be more of myself in the presence of God and others—especially my family. Whatever tasks have to remain briefly unfinished to attend to this reality are, on the whole, less significant. And by practicing Sabbath I learn to experience all of life—including it’s everyday tasks—as participating in the very life of God himself. To me, that’s worth stopping for 24 hours, even if other things have to wait.

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