By Amber Riggs
Sabbath. It’s what “Hakuna Matata” wishes it could really be. No worrying. About anything. For all eternity. And with thousands of years of history it certainly “ain’t no passin’ craze.”
It’s why the Friday sunset triggers a welcomed off-switch from the crazy busyness of my life. No laundry, vacuuming, or making beds. Or fretting about finances. Or checking my work email. Or wiping myself out in the name of pleasure. Or trying to figure out how much I can check off of my to-do list. For 24 solid, amazing hours.
BECAUSE SABBATH IS A CONCEPT THAT EMBODIES THIS BEAUTIFUL PICTURE OF RESTING IN CHRIST’S SUFFICIENCY.
It reminds us that God did more than set into order all of the natural beauty that surrounds us. He also wrote ongoing laws of nature that continue to sustain our lives. As hard as we work to provide food, clothing, and shelter for our families, we can only do so because He has put these resources within our grasp.
In Sabbath, we are called to remember that we are not the source of success or satisfaction in our lives. No matter how much we persevere in work or how much pleasure we pursue in play, enduring contentment is always going to elude us until we find that contentment in Christ alone.
But most of all, it is this gift that Christ holds out to us as a tangible reality that we don’t have to – and in fact, we can’t – earn God’s favor (see Hebrews 4). Sabbath is an invitation to “not do” and to instead get away from the busyness and hustle of life long enough to allow ourselves to remember that it is God who keeps the world in motion…and not us!
Terence E. Fretheim writes that,”Israel, in mirroring God’s way of being on this day, sets aside one day when they attend not to their own responsibilities and freedoms… but to God’s ordering of life, including its time”.
And so, once a week, I accept this invitation to step into that piece of time that was sanctified on the seventh day of creation and try to remember that life isn’t about keeping this crazy pace so that everything doesn’t seemingly fall apart. Rather, it’s about being more aware of the One who is going to keep it all together even on the days that I feel like I’m going to fall apart.
FIG LEAVES OF DISTRACTION
But there’s a problem: I’m addicted to busyness and distraction. To doing. To feeling like I have some form of control over my life.
I find it so ridiculously difficult to simply delight in who Christ is and all He has done. To marvel at the blades of grass under my feet and the clouds above my head and wonder at what He was thinking when He made them. Or even to allow myself to be blessed by the hearts and smiles and voices of the people He has placed in my life.
Yes, even in the sanctuary of the Sabbath, my mind struggles to resist the temptation to keep track of a million different things… to the laundry that is overflowing in my closet, that behavioral problem that needs to be solved, the ideas for work that are doing jumping jacks in my head. Or to more worthy pursuits such as how I can make the ministries I’m involved in more effective. And sometimes, it doesn’t struggle at all. It just gives in. And like Eve, I hide from Him, fig leaves of distraction camouflaging my mind into the frenetic energy of the hustle and bustle of the world in which I live.
Oh, I can look at myself in the mirror and by all appearances, it looks like I’m resting, but I know the truth – my heart and mind are still getting caught up in what impact I can have on the world around me. All the while, I’m hiding from what God wants me to really be getting caught up in: Christ’s sovereignty.
SABBATH: MORE THAN A SONG AND A SERMON
There is also this great temptation to reduce Sabbath to merely a few hours of corporate worship on a designated day of the week. To think that the very act of “going to church” means that I’ve participated in this mystery God calls a Sabbath rest.
Prioritizing corporate worship is the epitome of Sabbath? Rushing four children through eating breakfast, dressing bodies, wiping hineys, smoothing hair, brushing teeth, shoeing feet, locking a door, and buckling seat belts? And not just any four children. Four small, female children. Who themselves have not yet been afflicted by an acute awareness of time. Just getting out of our own driveway leaves my husband and me gasping for air. All to make it to the services on time.
Then rushing to our church building to get our little darlings unbuckled, through the doors of the meetinghouse, and situated on the front row while we do a final practice and sound check to prepare to lead worship.
No, Sabbath is more than a worship gathering. We can gather to worship any day, hour, or moment of the week. However, worship is a natural response to the grace of Sabbath, and doing so in community is a way of intensifying that response. And in that response, I delight.
SABBATH: A REST FROM WORKS
Ironically, individuals who choose to set Sabbath apart as a day of rest are occasionally accused of legalism – of trying to earn salvation by observing Sabbath.
However, by its very nature, there can be nothing works-oriented about Sabbath. Sabbath isn’t a work; it is a rest!
Sabbath is not about actions we take but rather about letting God act on us. It’s about receiving this sacrament, this grace, of the present and future rest we have in Christ, in the pureness of its joy and simplicity.
If anything, it is in giving into the temptation not to receive this rest that I hold onto the heresy that I must do, that I must earn. That Jesus is somehow depending upon me for something. That I can’t afford to be still.
In short, it’s hard for me – and for all of us – “to Sabbath” because this Sabbath rest that has been promised to us, both in this age and the one to come, is not a doing but rather a rest from doing.
In a culture that encourages us to “lean in” and maximize the impact of every second of our time through endless efficiencies while spending our valuable downtime pursuing thrills, Sabbath turns this on its head, telling us that this is not where our worth or source of strength are found at all.
And so, all week long, I’ll delight in doing the “good works He prepared in advance for [me] to do” (Eph. 2:10), but when Sabbath comes I’ll accept Christ’s sweet invitation to quiet my busy life and rest in the good works He has already done.
 Fretheim, Terence E., God and the World in the Old Testament (Nashville TN: Abingdon Press, 2005), p. 63