“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”:
Words of Jesus recorded by his disciple Mark, that I’ve heard for as long as I can remember. I’ve been a Sabbath observing Christian my whole life and feel honored to have such a beautiful treasure waiting for me at the end of a long tiring week. I’m proud to count myself a member of one of a precious few denominations who still honor the Lord by continuing to observe the biblical Sabbath. But the reality is, it took a global pandemic for me to realize I’ve been doing Sabbath all wrong.
When Obedience and Fervor Get in the Way
While the majority of Christians debate the need to follow Fourth Commandment Sabbath observance, a large number of Christians hold the following instruction given by Paul to be sacrosanct: “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Many believers view these verses as a command for church gatherings and corporate worship services. In my own Christian tradition, I’ve seen the desire to keep Paul’s instruction play out with intense fervor. In addition to worship services, there are: bible studies, theatrical rehearsals, choir practices, small group ministries, youth gatherings, concerts, outreach and service projects, all crammed into a single 24 hour period. Looking back we certainly avoided forsaking the assembling of ourselves! With the arrival of the Corona Virus Pandemic and subsequent restrictions on large gatherings, many churches are avoiding in person services. With what at first seemed like a standstill on religious practice, I’m now realizing how the over-programming of my faith community was in reality getting in the way of true Sabbath rest.
Rediscovering Sabbath Rest
As of this posting, it’s been 7 months since I’ve stepped foot into a church building or house of worship, yet I feel more connected to members of my church and faith community than I did before. The ability to connect with each other through online video conferencing has led to many creative ways for us to gather throughout the week. Without the non-stop programming I had become so accustomed to, I am now free to rediscover a number of renewing experiences that make Sabbath immeasurably more enjoyable and restful. After all, the purpose of Sabbath was never about the programs, but about strengthening and restoring relationships with God and others.
Family Worship: Without an over reliance on corporate worship, my husband and I have become more intentional about our family worship time together at home. It’s easy to neglect your significant other’s spiritual growth (or your own), when you’re just 7 days away from another dynamic sermon delivered by a trained speaker. We’ve gotten back to the basics of praise, prayer and bible study and have found the spiritual temperature of our home has increased right along with it.
Time in with the Creator: We’ve traded time indoors in houses of worship for time outdoors with God in nature. I honestly didn’t realize how many parks, trails and reservoirs were within driving distance of our home. It’s amazing what you can miss when you’re not looking!
Time to Serve: The additional time at home has made us more aware of the needs of our neighbors and provided additional ways for us to look out for one another. We’ve had more time and opportunity to engage in our own community service outreach to those in need around us. We’re closer to our neighbors now that we’re doing more to reach out and be of assistance.
Blessed Rest: For someone who generally takes a long while to fall asleep, I can’t even begin to describe the rejuvenation of a mid afternoon nap with the peace of knowing there’s literally nowhere to be and no appointments to keep.
While I look forward to meeting again in person with fellow believers, one thing is for sure. I will never again allow the usual Sabbath roster of programs and events get in the way of the blessings Sabbath has for me, my family or my community.
What Can You Rediscover?
This pandemic has forced a lot of us to reconsider many things in life, from learning how to grieve in solitude, to how to maintain relationships while social distancing, to how to live with less. While I still grapple with the pain and devastation that 2020 has brought, I’m also looking for ways to extract every ounce of joy possible during these uncertain times. Having our lives and the routines we’ve become accustomed to upended, is not easy, but sometimes it’s when we’re forced to STOP, that we can gain much needed perspective to determine how to make these tough times work for us. I’m grateful for the rest God gifted humanity. I’m thankful for the time to recover and be refreshed at the end of each week. I’m thrilled to know that despite the years of missing all that’s possible, God has provided an opportunity to undo old thinking and take a renewed approach to enjoying the special time He’s set apart for us to connect with Him and those around us. Even our dog Coco has benefitted from our new approach to Sabbath! 🐶 ❤️
I won’t assume that my experience is similar to your own, but I do encourage you to find new ways of doing familiar things. It may prove to be just what you need- embracing the fresh perspective only a pandemic can bring.
If the idea of Sabbath rest is new to you, learn more about the Sabbath here.