I have noticed increased chatter on the topic of Sabbath recently. I’m thrilled to hear people talking and writing about this essential practice (and commandment). Most of what I am hearing and reading is an effort to reclaim the joy of Sabbath. This is wonderful, because for many, Sabbath carries connotations of dry, boring days where activities are intensely restricted. It is, they believe, a day stripped of anything fun. This is not true! And these writers and teachers are helping us reclaim the joy present in God’s gift of Sabbath.
We need to be careful though. An overemphasis on the joy of Sabbath can be as equally damaging as a focus on rigorous restrictions. I get it. We need to reestablish the joyous nature of Sabbath. These teachers are attempting a course correction, and I support them wholeheartedly. But, let’s be careful we don’t swing the pendulum too far.
Sabbath is a discipline practiced in two parts, disengagement and engagement. It is a day we are intentional about our actions. We refrain from productive activities, and we choose to do those things that bring us life. Both disengagement and engagement is intentional on Sabbath.
Sabbath is highly intentional. Without intention it too easily becomes just another day. If you don’t believe me, try Sabbath for just one day. You won’t believe how opposed your practice will be. All those chores you avoided during the week become oddly attractive. You will be pulled toward all kinds of productive activities.
If we don’t balance engagement with disengagement, Sabbath can become a day of pleasure for pleasure’s sake. I have had many wonderful days of joyful activities where I hardly gave God a thought. If God takes a backseat on a day of fun, Sabbath becomes an exercise in hedonism.
Sabbath rest involves both engagement and disengagement. I am thrilled to hear the increased talk about Sabbath and push to reclaim its joyous nature, but let’s keep a holistic picture of the Sabbath practice. It is a day to disengage from the raging current of culture and productivity as well as a day to engage deeply with the one who created rest.