It’s Sunday morning, and though I should have slept in at least to my normal time, I awoke at 3am and wasn’t able to get back to sleep. Most mornings, one of the cats (Romeo) starts howling for breakfast around 5:30 and won’t be placated until he’s fed. He’s adorable but quite insistent on eating at that specific time. Ugh…cats!!
Usually I can get back to sleep without much trouble, but today it got me thinking about whether or not Sunday is really a “day of rest” for most Christians. That’s what 3 hours of sleep tends to do — make the mind wander all over the place and question reality a little. Most weeks Sunday feels like just another weekend day to have fun together, knock items off the to-do list, or catch up on those never-ending errands. How many of us really REST — as in stop running around, stop the normal routine, stop trying to catch-up, disconnect from everything, and connect with God and our families?
For Christian parents with young children — especially single parents — most Sundays are anything but restful! Sometimes Sundays are the worst day of the week for overwhelmed parents! When our children were very little, we stopped attending church for a time because we were just plain worn out by the end of the week and Sunday had become just another day to check something off the unwritten “Good Christian” list rather than be a day of rest. We bathed, dressed, fed, and corralled the children all the way to church but were too harried and frayed by that time to worship (or even stay awake half the time). Throw in lunch after church and other stuff, and it would be late Sunday afternoon before we’d be back home and slow down. Then few hours later, it would be time to prepare for Monday morning and another busy week. No wonder so many people are worn down and stressed out!
Who’s idea was the Sabbath anyway? Wasn’t it God’s from the very beginning? Wouldn’t the Creator know better what we really need than we do? Did God really need to rest after creating everything? Was He tired and needed a break? Probably not, but He rested on the Sabbath as an example to us. He knew everything He created needed to rest so He rested Himself to set the pattern for us:
Exodus 20:11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
And later when He gave the Law to Moses and the Israelites, taking one day off to rest wasn’t a suggestion but a commandment, and is even one of the Ten Commandments. He takes it so seriously that violating the Sabbath was punishable by death! (Exodus 31:15). God’s original purpose of the Sabbath was for mankind to REST, as in STOP DOING STUFF and stop running around. Don’t leave the house. Don’t pass “GO” and certainly don’t collect $200.
Exodus 16: 27 Now it happened that some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather, but they found none. 28 And the Lord said to Moses, “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws? 29 See! For the Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.
I spent two weeks in Israel volunteering on an IDF supply-base earlier this summer. It was my third trip there and their observance of the Sabbath (Shabbat in Hebrew) always throws me for a loop that first weekend. Shabbat begins on Friday at sundown and goes until just after sundown on Saturday. Practically everything shuts down (including many of the elevators), though not nearly as dramatically as on Yom Kippur, when literally the entire nation comes to a screeching halt. Every store is closed, all freeways are empty, and everything stops for 24 hours. Most do not cook on Shabbat and it’s spent with friends and family at the beach, parks, picnics, synagogue, etc. It is spent resting, reconnecting, and recharging. And it’s mandatory.
Americans on the other hand, have a very hard time slowing down. We tend to try to out-do everyone else, even with our vacations and weekends. Weekends tend to be for adventures and hobbies and catching up on everything we didn’t get done from the week before. We seldom seem to really rest — we always have to be doing SOMETHING as opposed to doing NOTHING. Doing nothing is harder for us than it might seem at times and can be difficult to stop unless we’re absolutely forced to. Especially when there’s a ton to do and things to get caught up on (the laundry and those errands aren’t going to do themselves, after all!), it’s so easy to steal some rest time from Sunday just to get caught up a little on Monday thru Saturday.
May I suggest that we stop stealing time from Sunday (or whatever day of the week we set aside for rest) and actually REST as our Creator intended? We are blessed with not merely 2 but 7.5 glorious weeks of vacation — 1 day a week — from God Himself to rest, recharge, and reconnect with Him and our loved ones. How about we actually observe and respect it as He commanded?
Pssst — it’s okay to sleep in one day a week AND take a long nap AND go to bed early. And if that means skipping church from time-to-time or better yet, going on Saturday night instead so we can sleep in on Sunday morning, how about we do it? I know, I know — heresy!! But seriously, how about we force ourselves to stop running around just one day a week and be still? God set aside one day a week, every week of the year, for us to rest and slow down. We just have to accept that gift and give ourselves a break for a change!