I’m learning what it means to “observe the Sabbath.”
Recently I read an article that gave the top ten reasons why certain people live to be over 100 years old. Unsurprisingly, “a less stressful lifestyle” and “a more active lifestyle” were both on that list. At first glance, it seems those two traits would clash. But after stumbling upon some information on the lifestyles of Seventh Day Adventists, I realize they live out a great model of being active and yet less stressed. And reports show they live longer, healthier lives than the rest of us.
They take seriously one of the Ten Commandments that we tend to ignore: They keep the Sabbath holy. For Seventh Day Adventists and Jews, it’s Saturday. For the rest of us, it’s Sunday. I agree with them that that Saturday is actually the Sabbath, but I don’t care, I just go along with the crowd and pretend that it’s Sunday with the Protestants.
The day of the week isn’t important to me. The model of resting on the 7th day is. God worked 6 days to create the world then rested on the 7th.
What God didn’t do was this: Work 5 days, take off the 6th, then on the 7th stay really busy all day with church events. To me, that’s the Christian American model that is mainstream, and it doesn’t work. Because we’re not resting on Sunday, we’re busy with “Christian stuff”. That’s missing the whole point. And for many, it’s causing burn-out.
Something different about the church I attend in Nashville is this: They only have a Sunday morning service. (Not even a Wednesday night meeting.) The pastor wants his congregation to spend more time with their families, not working on church activities or having to go home after lunch, only to get out again for another church service and/or training class. Our pastor stresses the importance of meeting with a “small group” during the week at someone’s house. That takes the place of the church fellowship and Bible study that occurs at many churches on Sunday night.
The idea is this: Instead of being constantly busy all week long with life’s events, randomly getting lucky enough to find pockets of free time to relax, I have begun to set aside Sunday as the day of relaxation, as directed in the Ten Commandments.
My struggle at first with this was, “What is work?” I knew I didn’t want to be like the Pharisees of Jesus’s time who were so anal that they thought walking more than a certain distance or even feeding livestock was a sin. They got all judgmental over the issue.
The difference with my approach is this: I don’t care what other people do on Sunday. The observance of the Sabbath is for my own good. God intended me to be busy for 6 days straight, then relax on the 7th. My bodily was physically, spiritually, and emotionally designed that way.
As I have began truly observing the Sabbath for the first time in my life, what I have learned so far is that I am even busier now from Monday to Saturday. It means the grocery shopping, household chores, and random errands that my wife and I usually did on Sunday now have to been done on Saturday afternoon. It means not sleeping in on Saturday as long. It means those tedious tasks that got pushed off until Sunday afternoon are now completed after the Biggest Loser goes off on Tuesday night.
But then Sunday is free. We go to church on Sunday morning. Then the rest of the day is wide open. For long naps. To go out for a nice meal if we want to. To watch movies. To go for a drive. To visit with friends. To do nothing. Just to relax, whatever that entails.
I had the wrong idea for all these years, thinking that a day of rest meant “a day of boredom”. Or a day of sleep. Or a day of sitting in a quiet room meditating about things that made me feel “Christian”. But to better understand the concept, I’ve replaced the word “rest” with “relaxation”. Sometimes resting means sleeping, but it also means enjoying the day by just vegging out. Doing whatever I want to do.
The best way I have found to realize what I will or will not to on Sunday is the “gotta or get to” method:
I “gotta” go to Target to exchange that air filter. I gotta clean out the closet. These things I gotta do or, have to do, are the annoying things I consider work. Things that keep me from relaxing. Therefore if there’s anything I gotta do, I will not do it on a Sunday.
But there are also things I “get to” do. I get to finish building that Corn Hole set with my friend Josh. I get to go for a nice three mile run. I get to put together that photo album I haven’t had time for. These are all physical activities, yet I get to do them. In other words, I want to do them. I get enjoyment from doing them. They are relaxing.
Is the activity something I have to do or I want to do? Regardless of the amount of physical activity it takes. Resting is more than refraining from work. So much of what we’ve been missing by not truly observing the Sabbath is the mental and physical rest we deeply need. This day of rest is a way God allows us to have sanity through all our inevitable busyness.
So how is it possible to be both more active and less stressed out? Follow the 4th Commandment and see what happens. It works for the Seventh Day Adventists. And me.