There are two things I keep reading a lot about lately. One is intentional and the other is something that keeps showing up on my Facebook news feed. The one that keeps showing up on my Facebook feed has to do with Sabbath, and more specifically Sabbath rest. A colleague’s church produced a Lenten devotional about Sabbath that was posted daily. The devotions ranged from things like experiencing nature to disconnecting from technology to uncluttering and simplifying your life. Sabbath is about just “being” without the constant drive to “do.”
Another piece I read was an article that talked about an entire congregation who committed to a once a month Sabbath. That weekend they gather for worship on Saturday evening instead of Sunday morning, share a meal and a simple worship service, and then Sunday is a day of Sabbath. The Sabbath day for them may not necessarily be a day of doing nothing, but it is about being unstructured and not having to rush to a variety of activities. It's about just being...and for families, just being together.
The second topic I’ve been reading a lot about has to do with fitness. I am signed up for two triathlons this year, and am looking at a third. To help find the best ways to prepare, I read a lot of fitness stuff. One of the things I’ve learned more about is the importance of rest and recovery days and having easy workout days and weeks built into your training plan.
It turns out that the really hard workouts a person does mainly tear down muscles. The actual fitness you develop happens on the rest days and the easy days as the muscles heal. Performance will not improve unless there is adequate recovery built in to a training plan. If an athlete just goes hard all the time, sooner or later his or her body is going to break down. Either the athlete will get injured, will get sick or will develop what’s called over-training syndrome. Over-training syndrome affects the body’s nervous system and endocrine syndrome. The main symptom is exhaustion that doesn’t get better with normal amounts of rest. It can be accompanied by a variety of physical and emotional symptoms like irritability, poor sleep, and even depression. Rest and recovery days turn out to be way more important than many fitness buffs ever thought.
So that got me thinking about this Sabbath business. Maybe Sabbath isn’t just one of several spiritual practices that we feel like we’re supposed to do but can never find time for. Maybe Sabbath time is as essential to spiritual growth as rest and recovery days are for fitness. Maybe the Sabbath time is when the growth actually happens.
Maybe when we’re flying through life at breakneck speed, even our worship and prayers and Bible reading don’t really have a chance to have an impact on us. Instead, we just keep skimming over the top of our lives and our relationship with God. Maybe it’s during Sabbath time that our experiences with God – experiences we have while we’re doing something “spiritual” or when we’re just doing life – can really become a part of our bodies, hearts, minds and spirits. Maybe Sabbath time is way more important than we thought.