Most Christians I meet today are one, if not both, of these things: tired and without joy. One of the great struggles that I see in most Christians is their inability to get past their shame, and, as researcher Brene Brown reminds us, shame is what causes us to disconnect. Even disconnect from the God, who can alleviate our shame. And, because we live in so much shame, we are disconnected from ourselves, from others, from God, from our work. Shame will lead us into an apathetic and joy-free existence because no matter what we do it’s never enough. So, we work our tails off trying to prove something to ourselves, or others, or God. Or, we fall into a mindset of, “What’s the point? I’ll fail anyways”. I think that this mode of living can helped be cured by learning to practice the Sabbath.
When God instilled the Sabbath into the Ten Commandments, it was a reminder that his people were not supposed to abide by the production line that they just left in Pharaoh. This was his way of implementing his cosmological value of rest, as seen in Genesis 1, into our human lives. His inserting of this into the law was his way of telling his people, “Chill out. You’re a human being not a machine.” In modern terms, I think it’s God’s way of saying “Put down the schedule, put down the cell phone, put down your tools, try not to think about work.” I think God understood that we needed someone to tell us to stop the busyness of our lives and enjoy living.
The great theologian Jurgen Moltmann once wrote, “Faith answers the unchildish childhood question in a childlike way; and the wisdom of theology ends with the liberty of the children of God. There is no purposive rationale for the proposition that something exists rather than nothing. The existence of the world is not necessary…When God creates something that is not god but also not nothing, then this must have its ground not in itself but in God’s good will or pleasure. Hence the creation is God’s play, a play of his groundless and inscrutable wisdom. It is the realm in which God displays his glory.”
When we begin to recognize that God delights in us, not because of something we can do, but simply because that’s who he is, then we begin to let go of our shame. We can begin to be less hard on ourselves. We can begin to reconnect with God, with ourselves, with others, and a find a new vitality with the work we participate in.
I think for these reasons, Sabbath is a very difficult practice for most people. For most of us, we’re not only addicted to working, but we’re addicted to our negative chatter that we have in our head. Hopefully, we can someday embrace a period of time in our week where we learn to be free from production and the negative energies that seem to press on us.