I spied him in the grocery aisle on a Sunday evening as I stopped to pick up orange juice and paper towels. “You look tired,” I said. He nodded, rubbing his eyes, making them redder than they already were. “I am,” he responded. “The weekend wore us out. I was with two of the kids as we packed in a tournament, two practices, and a dance recital.” He pointed with his head toward the parking lot, “They are asleep out in the van. The wife is somewhere west of here coming home from a contest with the oldest. I haven’t seen them since yesterday.”
“Do you get to take a day to rest?” I asked, feeling suddenly tired with him. “Nope,” he sighed. “Back to the job in the morning. Oh yeah, and a concert tomorrow night” as he scrolled his phone. He said, “We’ll get back to church one of these Sundays,” with an uncomfortable note in his voice. “No worries,” I said. “Just get some rest.”
I have had a version of this conversation dozens of times, with dozens of people whose calendars are full, bodies and minds are exhausted, and spirits are running on empty. The big question, of course, is “What do we do about it?” The Scoutmaster says your kid has to make Scouting a priority. The baseball coach and the soccer coach say that unless the sport comes first, the kids will lose, and nobody can be a loser. Homework should come first, but the recital is just a week away. Then the Church asks, “Did you want your child to be confirmed?” I understand. I really do. I’ve been there. I am there. And I am worried about you.
The result of this kind of life is, as The Guess Who sang when I was a kid, “No time left for you.” – or anybody else. (And yes, I realize how I have dated myself as a dinosaur with that reference – you can find the song here.) No time left for you. No time left for your family. No time left for God. And in the end, with life carefully cataloged in calendars of paper or digitized for eternity, filled with all the things we did (or missed) there is just no time left. That thought may make us think we should redouble our efforts to fill every moment with something – anything – so our lives matter.
“And (Jesus) said to them, “Take care! …one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15) I’m certain that this could also say that life does not consist of the abundance of events. Keeping up with the infamous Jones family next door does not only apply to cars, boats, and vacations. It means keeping up with the activities and achievements of others. And whether it is competition with you neighbors or giving in to the harping demands of coaches, teachers, directors, or whomever else may be jockeying to get a hold of your time, we end up being in bondage to time and the demands of others.
In the very first chapter of Genesis, God rests on the seventh day. This does not suggest God was tired, or creation was finished. “Sabbath” most basically means “stop.” It is strongly associated with freedom. God stops. God quits working because God is free to do so. You are created in God’s image! So, you are free to say no too!
Barbara Brown Taylor says it this way: “Stop for one whole day every week, and you will remember what it means to be created in the image of God, who rested on the seventh day not from weariness but from complete freedom. The clear promise is that those who rest like God find themselves free like God, no longer slaves to the thousand compulsions that send others rushing toward their graves.”
Eugene Peterson, prolific author and Christian pastor says, “If you don’t take a Sabbath, something is wrong. You’re doing too much, you’re being too much in charge. You’ve got to quit, one day a week, and just watch what God is doing when you’re not doing anything.” To have no time left for God, for being instead of doing, is to give in to the tyranny of time and miss the most essential blessings of life.
You have been given the power to resist the constant demand for time; the constant rush to “do.” When you dare to buck the system by saying “No!” you will find blessing. You may draw a few insults, some shaking heads, and push back from some, even your own kids. But you will be blessed and will teach them something deep and abiding that will still hold true when their “doing” days are done. I issue a challenge. Take your Sundays back, and reserve them for freedom and worship. “When practiced, Sabbath-keeping is an active protest against a culture that is always on, always available and always looking for something else to do.” (Stephen W. Smith, Inside Job)
Pax Christi – Pastor Tim Olson