We are pretty good at ignoring the commands of God. Sometimes it is passive ignorance and sometimes it is very active. If we are honest with ourselves most of us will readily admit that we don’t love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. We are trying, but we know we are still growing in this area. Most of us feel good about not murdering anyone recently, although Jesus’ version of this command (where we can’t even hate people) is a bit tougher to keep. But, of all of the commandments God has given us, do we as Christians actively dismiss and ignore any of them more than the command to keep the Sabbath?
Our violation of this command can actually be a source of pride! We pride ourselves in working ourselves to death. We wear our weariness and exhaustion as badges of honor. This is especially true of pastors. So many studies have shown that pastors are some of the worst Sabbath violators. Burnouts and moral failures abound in the world of Sabbath breaking pastors. But this is a problem for most Western Christians, not just those who work on Sundays. We have no margin in our lives. We don’t take care of the first things first. We have a tendency to push soul care, body care, and time with God to the margins of our lives instead of making them the foundation of abundant life.
Over the past couple of weeks I have been reminded, in my own life, just why Sabbath is so important. This has been an especially demanding season of my life. My job has me spinning a lot of plates. I go back and forth between discipling leaders, trying to push our church into new missional frontiers, connecting with people new to our community, trying to improve our facility, leading a staff of multiple part time people who function on very different schedules, preaching, shaping our worship services. pastoral care, seeking out those who have fallen away from our fellowship, trying to get people stuck in ruts unstuck, maintaining the technology necessary to run our church and about 15 other tasks. Oh, and I just trained for a year and ran over 700 miles so I could join in the great adventure of running the Chicago marathon with my people.
In addition to all of that I volunteer my time and energy as president of the board for Free The Girls, I volunteer as a Frontier Leader for 3D Movements discipling other pastors and leaders, and I am working with our district superintendent to help churches that need revitalization. At home I have been working hard to help Gretchen as she has taken on graduate school for the next three years to pursue a new career. This has me in charge of homework quite a bit of the time, running kids around to appointments, doing more laundry than I have ever ventured to do and in charge of feeding our family for the great majority of each of the 3 meals each of us eats each day.
Here is the thing, I read that list and it seems impossible and ridiculous, but honestly it doesn’t feel that way. I am a very high capacity person and of all the things I listed I consider it a great joy that almost all of them are part of my life because I am passionate about them. God has entrusted me with a tremendous amount of responsibility. I hope and pray that those responsibilities have continued to expand because I have proven faithful with the responsibilities that he has given me thus far. But, with all those responsibilities the primary focus of my life has to be Sabbath. I can only be responsible for my church and family if first I care for myself. Over the past couple of weeks I have had some extra Sabbath and It has shown me just how important Sabbath is. With proper rest lately, I have realized that I am actually pretty worn down right now. I have recognized struggles in my spirit that I didn’t know where there. I have gained quite a bit of perspective on where I am and what God is calling me to do. Most importantly, I have heard my Father say to me over and over how loved I am regardless of what I do or don’t do. My identity comes not from keeping plates spinning, feeding my children, or being an abolitionist. My identity is secure in my Father’s love for me.
That is what Sabbath does. It gives us space so that we can be reminded of God’s truth. Sabbath keeps us grounded. Sabbath gives us strength for the work God gives us. Without Sabbath we can’t possibly do the work of God the way God intends us to. Without Sabbath we are ignoring a basic rhythm of life with God so by definition we end up being out of step with God. So let me encourage you today to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. Make time with God, care for your soul, care for your body, true and blessed rest, the first priority of your life. Without it we have no hope of discovering abundant life in Christ.