That One Time I Sucked at Sabbath

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The first time I practiced Sabbath, I absolutely hated it.

At the time, I was wearing myself thin by clocking in lots of overtime hours at a church. I was exhausted, but I felt like I couldn't stop, because Sunday came every single week. I was stuck in a never-ending cycle, and the pressure to prove my worth by what I did started to consume me. At this church, I was valued for what I could contribute and how "useful" I was. The drive to impress others and keep up the pace quickly escalated until I found myself having occasional panic attacks, something that I had never experienced before. My breaking point came when I had a panic attack right before I had to go on stage and speak in front of hundreds of people. I couldn't remember what I had planned to say, but I somehow managed to stumble through my presentation.

It was a this low point in my life that I put my foot down and said, "Enough!" 

I put up boundaries on my job description. I cut back on my work hours. I set aside a full day where I vowed I would not do any work.

So you'd think that Sabbath-keeping would be a huge relief after struggling with this frenetic lifestyle. You'd think that I would have let out a deep sigh, done a victory lap around my house, and lived life to its fullest.

I didn't.

On my first Sabbath, I found myself feeling extremely anxious and agitated. I remember sitting on my couch, wondering what the heck I was supposed to do the whole day if I couldn't get any work done. I felt guilty for not being productive. I hated feeling this way, and I resented the Sabbath for making me confront all of my thoughts of inadequacy.

It was then that I realized just how pervasive my utilitarian ideology and identity had become. It was humbling, but even more so, it was scary. I was shocked at just how much I longed for the work that had become a form of bondage. God had set me free, but I found myself trying to return to my former way of life, even if it involved the destructive forces of anxiety and oppression.

I was addicted to Egypt.

That first Sabbath was a struggle, but I stuck with it. Slowly, my mentality began to change. I began to find so much delight in it.

In today's culture, Sabbath-keeping is hard. You might not even like it at first. It might make you feel like you're being lazy and insufficient. You might yearn for the gratification that comes from checking off tasks from a list.

But what you will discover when you start practicing Sabbath is that you are enough. And because you are enough outside of your work, you can choose to stop and rest.

God gave you permission to rest, and when you stop your work and rest in him, he will set you free to live a new lifestyle. He will heal you. He will sustain you. And after a while, you will learn how to find delight in the Sabbath.

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