The fourth commandment reminds us to “Remember the Sabbath day and treat it as holy.” (Exodus 20:8 CEB). The scripture goes into more specifics about which day and how to do it, but I’m not here to preach about reserving Saturday (or Sunday if you prefer) to eschew all work in order to focus on God. The true lesson in the Sabbath is not about honoring a specific day, or doing it in any particular way, but you are certainly welcome to live by the ancient advice literally, if you so choose.
The “sabbath” means so much more metaphysically, spiritually, and frankly, physically. The sabbath takes us out of our routine for a while and reminds us that we need to care for ourselves before we can take care of our life and the loved ones around us. And it applies on many different levels.
Think about how the universe is built. We live on a planet, with a moon revolving around it, and the planet revolving around the sun. This same structure exists on a smaller level: a home serving as a center point for the family that lives in and around it. On an even smaller level, electrons revolving around the nucleus of an atom, and even smaller particles revolving within those. On a grander scale, our sun is part of a galaxy revolving around a central point. Then there are millions of galaxies revolving around some distant point, and perhaps multiple galaxy systems revolving in an even greater universal system. No matter how you look at it, this concept of revolution exists on many scales.
Similarly, our idea of sabbath exists on many scales. The word “sabbath” comes from the Hebrew shabbath, which means “rest.” It simply means taking a break. And there are many times in our life when a break is needed. If we are running at full speed all the time, we will wear ourselves out. We naturally need a time of rest in order to stay healthy and focused.
- On the smallest level, it may simply be stepping away from a task for a brief moment to take a deep breath or stretch our muscles, so we can refocus.
- In an exercise routine or workout, there are specific times to breathe and rest to avoid overworking our body. And when we are finished, there is a cool-down, so we can return more efficiently to our normal, relaxed state.
- During our workday, the law requires us to take certain breaks from our work routine. This gives us a time to step away, nourish ourselves, and renew ourselves for the rest of the day.
- On a daily basis, we need a certain amount of sleep. Sleep gives our physical body a much-needed break, and actually allows our organs and our mind a chance to process the stress it has experienced during the past day. We wake up a new person. We have new energy, a new outlook, in order to make it through another 16 hours of waking state.
- On a weekly basis, we have our weekends – another opportunity to rest on a larger scale. This most closely resembles the sabbath mentioned in the bible.
- During the year, we take vacations. This gives us rest from our daily work routine, so we can relax and enjoy ourselves without obligation. Not only do we take vacations from work, we also arrange for breaks for children in school – winter break, spring break, summer break. This gives both the children and their teachers the opportunity to process what they have accomplished, and prepares them with renewed focus when school reconvenes.
- In our lifetime, most of us will retire. This is a long-awaited rest from decades of routine associated with a lifetime career (or two!).
All of these are ways of expressing the sabbath – a time of rest. A time of renewal, repair, reward, rejuvenation. “Keeping it holy” simply means making a commitment to take a little time for yourself and your well-being. Whenever you are working mentally or physically, whether it is your job, school, a specific project, a workout, or anything else, make time to honor the sabbath. Take that breath, that lunch break, that weekend, that vacation, that respite that gives your body, your mind and your spirit a chance to prepare for whatever comes next.
In this hectic world, there is an ever-increasing expectation to work at 110% capacity in whatever we do. You might feel compelled to work at 110%, but that doesn’t mean 100% of the time. Take your sabbath. Keep it “holy.” Enjoy that rest, even if for just a moment, and it will be a lot easier to keep that momentum going afterward.
A well-known fast food chain used to have the slogan “You deserve a break today.” And you do. Enjoy it!