Sunday, March 1, 2015

concerning the Sabbath

{image via pinterest}

At Wheaton, students are encouraged, though not required by any stretch of the imagination, to keep the Sabbath.

How each student handles the Sabbath is different. For some, Sabbath looks like 24 hours -not necessarily on Sunday - without doing schoolwork. For others, it means not doing homework on Sunday afternoons. Some keep it regularly. Others keep it when they can. Others don't take Sabbath at all, finding other ways to work rest into their weeks.

I have found that the Sabbath is a necessity in my life as a college student. It's not a luxury that I take when I can afford to. It's something I practice every week, whether I am totally on top of my schoolwork or completely overwhelmed. Keeping the Sabbath is not a burden to me - it is a gift, since I am one of those people who doesn't know when to stop working. I tend to be two days ahead in all my classes. If I get the chance, I work ahead even more than that. There is never an end to the work that needs to be done. If I wait until my work is finished to rest, then I will never rest at all. Taking the command to rest one day a week gives me permission to set aside my work and relax, which refreshes me so that I can head into each new week rejuvenated and eager to work.

This has been my approach to the Sabbath ever since I got to Wheaton. That being said, I still have days where my school load is crushing and I decide to work during my usual Sabbath - in a "relaxing" way. But I have come to think that for me, even having more schoolwork than I know how to handle is no excuse to break the Sabbath.

Here's why:

In my Old Testament class we have been talking about what it would have been like to live in Ancient Israelites, and my professor cited an interesting statistic.

During the Iron Age, the average household, with each member working nearly every waking minute of every day, would only produce a food supply sufficient for 300 days. This means that to survive, they had to tighten their belts year-round and live on less food than they really needed in order to make ends meet. Life for the settlers in the early days of Israel was a constant battle for survival. None of the other Ancient Near Eastern cultures had a concept of halting work for one day each week. They were too practical for that: to eat you had to work. Constantly.

It was in this context that God gave the command to rest.

There is more to Sabbath than rest. Taking a Sabbath is an act of trust in and surrender to God. Taking a Sabbath is saying with my life that I know that I cannot do everything. It forces me to actively stop and trust that God will enable me to do what I need to do. Taking a Sabbath is living out the conviction that "God will provide."

For the Israelites, this meant much more than trusting that God would enable them to meet a deadline. It meant trusting that God would not allow them to starve.

None of my common excuses for not taking the Sabbath come anywhere near the fear of severe malnutrition. That, in my opinion, would be a legitimate excuse. Yet this is what the Israelites faced, and God still commanded them to keep the Sabbath.

Now, I'm not saying here that there aren't times when it is impossible to keep the Sabbath. As Jesus said, the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. There are times when emergencies come up, when people need help, when keeping the Sabbath would be as harmful as refusing to heal someone who desperately needs healing. But I'm going to think long and hard from now on whether I am choosing not to keep the Sabbath because I legitimately cannot, or whether I simply feel overwhelmed and can't see how I will finish my work without doing so. Because I now think that those days are the ones during which it is most important to honor God and trust His provision by resting on the Sabbath.

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