“Most people mistakenly believe that all you have to do to stop working is not work.” Judith Shilevitz
Rest, we all need it. The human mind and body simply cannot operate 24/7, it needs to recharge. This is so essential to human existence that God included the instruction to rest in the ten commandments.
In the story of the Exodus, this principle of rest was woven into the fabric of weekly life when God provided food for the Israelites for 6 days a week, but not on the seventh. Moses, reminded the people of this in Exodus 16, when he said, “bear in mind that the Lord has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where they are on the seventh day; no one is to go out.” So the people rested on the seventh day (Exodus 16: 29-30).
This routine was part of their rhythm, for the next 40 years. A whole generation got up, gathered food for six days, and then rested on the seventh. A people who had been slaves, were learning to trust God. They were learning that they were not defined by their productivity alone, nor by what they did during the week. They were learning that all of us, no matter who we are, are ultimately dependent on God.
Author and theologian Walter Brueggemann wrote,
“Sabbath provides a visible testimony that God is at the center of life—that human production and consumption take place in a world ordered, blessed, and restrained by the God of all creation.”
When we stop, when we Sabbath, irrespective of whether you are a student, in the workforce, at home or retired; we remind ourselves that we are dependent on God. In this simple act, we renounce the illusion that our life is completely under our control and all that we have is because of self.
We remind ourselves that God is the centre of our lives, and we need to trust him.
This doesn’t just happen. It requires intention. As Judith Shilevitz observed in her New York Times Magazine article, Bring Back the Sabbath, ““Most people mistakenly believe that all you have to do to stop working is not work… You cannot downshift casually and easily, the way you might slip into bed at the end of a long day. . . This is why the Puritan and Jewish Sabbaths were so exactingly intentional, requiring extensive advance preparation.”
Shilevitz understands that our relationship with work is out of whack if we think the way you recharge or be rested is simply knocking off whenever you feel tired. The ability to find rest is not natural. It is absolutely vital for life, and yet it needs intention.
Being alone is the same as solitude. Not speaking is not the same as silence. Reading the Bible is not the same as studying or meditation on Scripture. They require intention.
Sabbath is intentional time to contemplate and distance from everyday demands. To rediscover our humanity, and worth, apart from activity.