Sabbatical. It sounded so holy . . . but it was beyond essential. This past winter, more than a few folks “strongly suggested” I take some time off work to rest, refresh . . . and breathe.
I have been at my current job for 10 years but can count on one hand the number of vacations I’ve taken. On top of that, a series of life-changing events had dried up my creative juices. So, I agreed to take some time off.
Sabbatical sounds far more worthy than just “downtime.” The concept comes straight from Scripture: at the time of creation, God’s creative juices were full throttle.
Yet at the height of all His creative goodness, God chose a day (literal or figurative) to sit back and savor His finished work. Genesis 2:2–3 tells us:
On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation. (NLT)
Clearly our God, who never sleeps or slumbers (Psalm 121:3–4), could have pressed right on but instead chose to rest and thoroughly enjoy His creation.
Okay, for a second imagine creating the universe. Scientists estimate we have discovered only 4 percent of the observable universe. God took a day to delight in all He had created . . . 4 percent + 96 percent = a lot of creation. He wasn’t pooped; He was exceedingly pleased!
When was the last time you chose to slow down, observe, affirm, and be thoroughly saturated with the fruit of your labor? Or maybe to rest, reflect, and reconnect with your soul in quietness?
Our Creator instituted a day of rest. His Son, Jesus, who came to save the entire world, took time to get away.
We read in the Gospels about Christ’s life on earth—that He repeatedly went away to pray, to rest, to be refreshed by His Father, God (Mark 1:35; 7:17, 24; Luke 4:42; 5:16).
Rest is not celebrated in the Western culture. Instead, we praise . . .
- Measurable success
- Returns on investment
Analytics to measure every second of contribution and work value. If the numbers are good, we sigh in relief. Whew! But over time, the social media “likes,” “re-pinned boards,” Instagram followers, or viral tweets begin to define who we are. Watch out!
In fact, how many notifications have come through as you read this? Has your attention bounced about like a ping-pong ball from one feed, back to this, to the next “like,” back to this?
Stop the notifications for an hour—or is that too unsettling for you? Does the thought of no public feedback make you antsy? What about a day, or week, or month-long sabbatical from social media?
Years ago, I was sitting on the basement floor of a musty, used-books shop in Wales. A tattered little red book caught my attention. Its title was Weariness.
The binding was brittle, the satin bookmark stained and threadbare. Published in 1909, the words were haunting. The author spoke of how driven we are to be involved in all things, attend all events, keep our schedules full of excitement.
He then pondered the reality that perhaps this push for endless activity has more to do with love of self than love and care for others and for our God.
When we count on others to applaud what we’ve made, photographed, and posted, our focus shifts ever so slowly to us and away from all things godly. There is no rest to be found.
Facing our insecurities, our attitudes, and living congruently with our values is much easier said than done. I fought the quiet for the first two weeks of my sabbatical.
Oh, how I wanted to scan social media, but instead, I closed my Facebook page. While my family was delightfully shocked, I mourned quietly for a bit.
How had I gotten sucked into passing time mindlessly, missing those I said I valued most? What a severe, necessary revelation.
Then, I checked in with my office and my assistant reminded me: “You’re not supposed to be working, remember?” Oops, sorry, must have been a mistake. To be honest, I was afraid of being forgotten, not needed, not valued.
I’m not saying we should all move into caves in the Himalayas and monk-out for a while. I am saying we must be aware of the here and now.
In nature, we find something called the law of assimilation, which says we are inevitably influenced by and thus become similar in character to those whom we are around on a consistent basis.
Who or where or what is your focus these days? If you chose to replace your time on social media for one day with time in Scripture, in nature, in quietness, where would that lead? Can you tolerate the thought?
Let Me Hear from You
I end with this challenge. What if we (I’m with you in this) replaced 30 minutes of time spent on social media or TV or whatever your distraction of choice may be with meditating on the Bible passages listed below?
Make note of what stands out to you the most, and write it down. On day seven, rest and review your notes. What did you observe? Where is your focus? Are you living with purpose and passion? Let’s talk over what the Lord reveals this week. I cannot wait to hear from you!
Day One: 1 Peter 5:6–11
Day Two: Ephesians 5:15–20
Day Three: Romans 8
Day Four: Psalm 121
Day Five: Psalm 139:17–24
Day Six: Matthew 5:1–11
Day Seven: Rest and review your notes. Enjoy!
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