One of the journals I read regularly is the Harvard Business Review. Clearly skewed toward for profit enterprises, there is always something in HBR that is relevant to the non-profit world. For instance, an article recently described a study that revealed that managers could not tell the difference in work output between employees who worked 80 hours a week and those who pretended to work 80 hours a week.
That caught my attention, and started the wheels turning.
In life, there is always more work than can be accomplished in the hours allocated. Since we often work on behalf of those we love, the needs and the demands can be overwhelming. Consequently, it is always easy to justify longer hours, shorter vacations, and the stretching of work to fill every margin of life. Sitting with co-workers can lead to a subtle boasting of how many hours, evening and weekends that are devoted to work. The problem is that none of that is biblical.
Here is what is amazing – God created the ENTIRE universe in 6 days, and then rested! Why? Not because he needed the rest (He’s God), but because we do. The Almighty modeled behavior that He intends us to emulate. In fact, God made it an imperative: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work.”
Why do we need a Sabbath? To keep us sane and close to God. We need a break from work, even the Lord’s work, in order to be creative, tenacious, innovative and effective.
So what does that mean for you?
Perhaps you work 55 hours at the office, plus the time spent commuting each day. At the end of the day you swing by the store on the way home to grab something someone else prepared so you can serve yourself or your family. In the evening you tackle all the responsibilities that your life requires of you – an aging parent, young children, a return to college or grad school, sports, the list is endless. Then you drop off to bed, sleep fitfully, wake up tired and do it all again.
Weekends roll around and are almost worse, crammed with all the stuff you can’t do during the week. Compounding the problem, you feel like you need to be everywhere and do everything or you will have wasted the weekend!
Take a deep breath and then pray, “Lord, help me make a Sabbath that honors you and blesses me, and especially those I love. Amen.”
Then set some specific goals –
Start with a Sabbath hour. I know, I know – that’s not exactly biblical, but it is a start. Take an hour of deliberate rest to focus on your life and ask the questions God is longing to answer: Where am I going? Why am I going THERE?? Who am I sharing the journey with? Is any of this leading to you, Lord?
As you progress, stretch that hour to a day; make a Sabbath Day set aside for refreshment of your soul. Go to church, but do so with margins before and after so you don’t feel harried and rushed. Allow time to connect with folks and chat with them before and/or after worship. Then take the remainder of the day to do something that will be a blessing for you and those you love. There is nothing rigid in any of this, so allow the Spirit to move through your day.
A word of caution that has perhaps already dawned on you: if you are really going to make a Sabbath, you need to plan and prepare for it so the other stuff is already done – or you will worry about it and it will stress you during the very time you need for rest and relaxation.
Finally, in order for it to be a true Sabbath, you might need to be a Techno Sabbath. Yep, that’s exactly what I mean – no digital devices and distractions. And yes, you can survive such a digital detox once a week.
Realizing that all this may seem overwhelming – put it to a test. Take a month and make a Sabbath each week. At the end of the week ask if anything has changed at work, at home, at heart.