An Intentional Disruption
Sabbath. What does it even mean? When you hear or read this word, you may think of the band Black Sabbath, you may associate it with an antiquated religious idea, or you may know exactly what it means and you’re wondering why you should care.
The truth is that this notion is something you’re quite familiar with. The concept of Sabbath is intricately intertwined with rest, wholeness, and peace.
Some Sabbath moments you may have experienced are:
Taking a personal day from work to get your nails did.
Feeling burned out from the daily schedule, so you intentionally ignore something on your to do list.
Turning your phone off to get some peace and quiet (even though it physically hurts to miss a text).
Pretending homework isn’t real and doing something that’s fun instead.
Resting is something so important, that even the Christian God does it. In the very first book of the Christian Bible, God does something interesting. Here I am quoting from the second chapter of Genesis, verses 1 to 3.
“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”
Did anything pop out to you? For me, it seems so strange that God would rest on the seventh day. If he is as all-powerful as the Christian Bible claims, then why would he need to rest after literally just speaking? This makes me wonder. Perhaps something else is going on here.
Let’s look into the meaning of rest as used in the Christian Bible. In various contexts, the word can be translated as:
Rest = Desist from labor
Rest = Keep the Sabbath
The Hebrew word, “שבת” (Shabbat) is translated as “rested.” The same Hebrew word also is translated as Sabbath. Therefore, when God finished creation, he “sabbathed” on the seventh day.
For the Christian, it is believe that the Bible has a sort of internal coherence. Even with different writers and centuries, Christians believe that God super-intended the whole thing so that it makes sense when compared with itself. Under this presupposition, another portion of the Christian Bible illuminates a bit on what’s not happening here in the verse we read in Genesis. Let’s look at Isaiah chapter 40, verse 28.
“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.”
If we’re to believe what is written here, then God could not have been resting in Genesis because he was tired. So what else could be happening here?
Let’s try imagining this together through the eyes of Alexander Hamilton. In the paradigm-shifting musical, Alexander is doing all sorts of amazing things for the revolutionary army. He is appealing to congress, contacting and dialoguing with top generals. He is called George Washington’s right-hand man. He’s influential in the midst of power in the midst of a struggle. Yet, he was forced home by George Washington. His wife and unborn child await him as he trudges home, knowing that his mission isn’t done yet.
Have you ever had a forced rest like Hamilton had? In the middle of your work, were you forced to sit down and stop what you were doing? Maybe you had a cold, or you hurt something etc. Not very enjoyable, was it?
Try listening to this portion of the song, “That Would Be Enough.” (0:35 – 1:04)
Some lyrics to highlight:
Hamilton: Will you relish being a poor man’s wife? Unable to provide for your life?
Eliza: I relish being your wife. Look around, look around.
There’s an issue of identity here. Alexander wants to do, do, do – and when there’s a disruption of these things, that are in fact good things, he sees himself as useless. Meanwhile, the whole time Eliza loves him, not for what he does, or has done, or even will do, but she simply states that she relishes being his wife.
Alexander is a smart dude, but he’s missing the point. The things he was doing were good, but Eliza just wanted to be with him.
God does a lot of things in this passage we read from Genesis that makes sit and wonder.
For Jesus, creation is not just a poof then He’s done kind of thing. This is an intimate, dirty process. He could think everything into existence, but he chose to interact in a way that we can sense. He speaks, and reality hears. He forms Adam and the animals from the earth, and reality feels. Oh, man and I imagine the smells of freshly created earth were so much better smelling than any massage parlor’s essential oils. The very method that God uses in creation is other focused. This idea culminates with God blessing the Sabbath.
This is what I believe God’s rest on Sabbath means. It’s to be, rather than to do.
The irony is that we create a lot of “no-can-do lists” for ourselves while resting.
For the Christian, the idea that we have to protect the Sabbath as if our actions bless it and make it holy are backwards. I’m critiquing myself here. Rather than focusing on others and righting wrongs, we argue about what can and cannot be done on Sabbath.
This is what Hamilton struggled with. Rather than looking at what he could do at home like be with Eliza, talk about their unborn child, spend time with her, etc., he was concerned with what he was not doing.
The reality is that there’s a terrifying amount of subjectivity in keeping Sabbath. How we are “other-focused” can manifest differently for each person. For the Christian to try and “do” specific things to make Sabbath holy is blasphemous to say - because God Himself already blessed it. With the Christian understanding, how could humans do something to bless it further?
Sabbath (as intended), is a way to step out of the daily grind and be able to spend time enjoying all of our hard work. If time is money, then Sabbath is the wealthiest day of the week.
Over in Silicon Valley, there are camps dedicated for adults to disconnect from their normal life. This means that they don’t have computers, phones, or any other gadgets that garner so much attention during their daily lives. If even the place that’s known for creating much of the technology we interact with each day things it’s valuable to disconnect, then maybe there’s something to this Sabbath idea.
One final analogy. A few months ago I tried out Amazon Prime Wardrobe for the first time. You see, I’m ultra-picky when it comes to my running shoes. I have to run with them, feel them, like the color, make sure they support, etc. So when I found some shoes on Amazon that I thought I liked, I was extremely wary to buy them without trying them first. Thankfully, that’s the whole premise of Amazon Prime Wardrobe! I ordered the shoes to try, and I promptly went on a run while wearing them.
I hated them. They were stiff, uncomfortable, and I just wasn’t feeling it. But I figured I might as well wear them for the next week, because I could just send them back without charge, so why not?
I went on another run with them, and this time, they felt incredible. It was weird, I thought I put on the wrong pair of shoes, because this time they felt so great and different. Happily, I purchased the shoes so that I wouldn’t have to send them back after the trial period. I never would’ve known that I loved these shoes if I didn’t try them on first.
Let’s imagine that God is like Amazon. You can try this idea of Sabbath before purchasing. I’m not even asking that you sample anything else – just Sabbath.
This next Saturday (because that’s when God Sabbathed), try setting aside just one hour where you normally would be working, doing homework, or something that could be seen as burden. In that hour, try being with someone in an intentional way. You could call a friend, call some family, visit someone, it’s up to you. Try it and see what happens.
I’m not sure if you believe in God, or even a higher power, but imagine that these words that Eliza is singing to Alexander in “That would be Enough” are God himself singing directly to you.
Jonny has been involved with Enspire Productions since 2009. He is currently enrolled in the MDiv. program at the Andrews University Theological Seminary.