The idea of a Sabbath, a day of rest, is often lost in our modern culture of fast food, packed schedules, interstates and roundabouts. Even time spent alone is filled with music and the soft hum of the television. Silence hangs in empty rooms like summer heat, stifling and noticeable.
Whenever I think of Sabbath, I am reminded of William Wordsworth’s poem “The World Is Too Much with Us.” Wordsworth writes “we have given our hearts away” by “getting and spending” and in doing so we “lay waste our powers.” The essence of this is that by involving ourselves too much in the world, we have lost our identities.
Written in 1770, Wordsworth’s poem is just as relevant today, because it shows a human tendency to give our attention to something other than God. Technology intrudes into our lives now perhaps more than any other time in history. We can connect to the Internet with unbelievable mobility; even cars have wi-fi. Despite the incredible state of modern technology, the obvious counterpoint is we have lost the ability to slow down and separate ourselves from the screen.
Freshman year, I attended the Cedarville Homecoming cardboard canoe race. It rained that year and my phone turned off from getting wet. As concerned as I was at first, those couple of days were liberating for me because I was forced to stay disconnected.
As important as it is to disconnect from our devices, I want to combine that idea with the idea of the Sabbath, the day of rest. For many Christians, a Sabbath day is merely another Jewish tradition that Jesus abolished when he healed the lame and picked food. While that is true, a Sabbath day, or even purposefully finding time to relax, could help us to slow down in our lives and reorganize our priorities.
By a day of rest, I mean taking a day to do what is restful to you, your friends or your family. For some people, gardening and working in the yard might be cathartic. To others, reading a book or walking in nature. A Sabbath day in the modern times is breaking the habits you create during the week, and that looks different for every person.
A Sabbath slows us down
Taking a day of rest creates a break in the schedule and allows time to reset before the next thing. More than that, allowing for a break helps us rediscover the beauty of the world beyond the screen at our fingertips.
When I think of a day of rest, I think back to Saturday mornings as a child watching Westerns and remodeling the kitchen or watching Sunday afternoon football and taking naps. Both of these childhood memories revolve around spending time with my father, and I think that gets to the heart of what a day of rest means.
Taking a Sabbath day during the week helps us recapture what is important in our lives. Looking back to my childhood, those lazy weekend days are what I love and miss most about being a kid. However, if you had asked me then whether I wanted to be laying tile on the kitchen floor, chopping wood, or to be playing video games with friends, I would have chosen the last option every time. I wanted to be anywhere else but doing chores around the house. That was boring to me. However, that was only a child’s perspective taken with only immediate gratification in mind. That takes us to another important reason to take a Sabbath.
A Sabbath is worthwhile
As kids, candy was good. There were times when it was better than home cooking. We all had our preferences: Skittles, chocolate, Starbursts, Laffy Taffy. I remember being obsessed about Nerd ropes, don’t ask me why. Sugar was another food group back then, but now (hopefully) we realize that the food we ate as children had no mature taste and little nutritional value. We would eat all of our Halloween candy within a few days, feel sick, recover, and forget to learn that life lesson. We sought immediate pleasure and could not care less about how we felt afterward.
Likewise, what we appreciate in the moment is not always what is beneficial and valuable. In high school (and at times in college), I spent my free time playing video games. Yet I realized as I aged that whenever I turned off that console or screen, I had nothing to show for the hours I just spent in a virtual reality. Therefore, just because a Sabbath day is not exciting or incredibly fun, it can be worthwhile as a stress reliever from the past week and a good starting point for the upcoming week.
The Sabbath was made for man
In Mark 2:27, Jesus says that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” The beauty in this statement is that Jesus acknowledges both the need for man to take a rest from work and the tendency of man to make strict institutions of inherently good things. I want to focus on the first point that the Sabbath was made for man.
That we need a break should need little persuasion in our modern age. The phrase “time is money” comes to mind as a defining motto of the American entrepreneurial spirit, but is equaling time to money a healthy way to live life? Balance seems a much healthier approach; work hard, but don’t make work your entire life. The phrase “time is money” also presumes the idea of man as a machine and an important cog in an industrialized economy. But man is not a machine, and profit is not the end goal of our lives.
In terms of opportunity cost, taking a Sabbath day is a terrible decision, but we are not called to lives of wealth. We are called to live balanced lives, and a Sabbath might help us recover that balance.
Adam Pittman is a senior English major and Just Sayin’ columnist for Cedars. Among other things, he avidly enjoys reading, the outdoors, coffee, and soccer.
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