Why is this day different from other days?
Why is it that on all other days I set an alarm, but this day I sleep in and take an afternoon nap?
Why is it that on all other days my iPhone and laptop are never farther than 6 inches from my right hand but on this day I leave them (mostly) behind?
Why is it that on all other days my planner is classes, assignments, and to-do lists but on this day, there is mostly white space?
Why is it that on all other days I live inside classrooms and library cubicles, surrounded by people and screens, deep in my own academic, theological thoughts but on this day I run as long as I like along the seawall, meander through Kits, stay in my pajamas with my journal and a novel until noon?
Because I was a slave once, but now I’m free.
And yet, like the Israelites newly freed from Pharaoh’s harsh rule, I too can return to, prefer even, the old familiar slavery to new freedom in Christ.
During my first year on staff with InterVarsity, I was challenged to go to my campus every day for the first 30 days of school and bond with the first year students. I had been going strong for 28 days when I noticed a dull pain slowly building in the space behind my eyes. It spread slowly all over my body: a slight shaking in my hands, a vague turning in my stomach, a clenching in my chest. Not ideal, I thought, but manageable. There was so much more to do. I can’t stop now! They need me! My supervisor is impressed with me! God needs me! But then I started barking at my leaders. I started resenting the new students for taking over my life. I began to grumble to God: “if I have to...sendanotheremailormeetwithonemorefirstyearormakeonemorepanof
In Invitations from God, Adele Calhoun notes that refusal to rest implies enslavement to something. I was still bowing to my old, familiar idols of perfectionism, efficiency and performance. While I claimed to worship Jesus and daily invited students to forsake the false university gods and follow Him, my life reflected the insidious lie that I can be my own God- that while God Himself works 24/6, I can (and must) do 24/7 because the Mission will cease and the advancement of the Kingdom of God on my campus will be compromised if I stop.
In a moment of gracious clarity, I realized I was being like the Israelites grumbling at the manna God provided in the wilderness, like Peter refusing to be washed by Jesus.
My refusal to rest was refusing Jesus Himself and returning to the slavery of self-worship.
And then I remembered Jesus, the God who taught (unexpectedly) that Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath, who came to restore me to life, who came to free captives like me, who told the parable of the servants who waited all night for their Master to come serve them.
So I chose to take God at His word and enjoy my first real Sabbath. I chose to trust Jesus and stop while seemingly urgent ministry tasks remained incomplete. I chose to remember with my actions that He called me not only for others, but for my own healing and freedom. I chose to remember with my time that my humanity is not a barrier to God’s transforming work on my campus.
It felt risky, but it was so, so good.
When I returned to campus, I was no longer anxious and angry but ready, rejuvenated, refueled. I wanted to be there. Now that I’m a student again I notice that I can be much more focused, efficient, kind and empathetic for six days if I take one day to rest.
Maybe you think Sabbath isn’t for you. Perhaps you have young kids or an 80-hour a week job or need to work on Sundays. I would encourage you to be creative and experiment with Sabbath. I enjoy cooking on my Sabbath, but maybe you get takeout. I’m an introvert, so I spend many Sabbath days alone but maybe you do yours with another family. When Sunday was a work-day I took mine mid-week. Find whatever reminds you that you are loved and secure in God even when you are not producing or performing, that nothing will fall apart if you stop, that we inhabit a Kingdom of abundance rather than scarcity.
You may find it hard, especially at first. Sometimes Sabbath has meant feeling the anxiety that arises when I have to face what I did not accomplish in the preceding days. Sometimes Sabbath has meant actually having to sit still with Jesus in the unresolved pain of a student turning her back on Him or my family falling apart. Sometimes Sabbath has meant disappointing people I love, in order to spend time alone.
But without fail, Sabbath is a gift from God I no longer refuse, at least most of the time. Choosing Sabbath is a weekly proclamation to myself of the Church’s creed: Jesus (not Kasey) is Lord. Lord of the cosmos. Lord of my ministry. Lord of my graduate degree and career aspirations. Lord of my life. And that is Good News.
Kasey was raised in Boston, MA and spent six years on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in Baltimore, MD before coming to Regent College in the fall of 2014. When she's not studying doctrinal theology, she can be found cooking, working on her latte art, running, biking, reading, following the Red Sox and befriending people with dogs. She hopes to teach theology when she grows up, whenever that is.