The right time for sabbath is not when our work is finished, but when it has piled up until we cannot see over it into a hopeful future.
“Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” – Deuteronomy 5:15
The reason God rests on the seventh day and the reason God gives for us to rest on the seventh day are very different.
In the creation story, God rests when all the work is done. God knocks out creation in six days and as a reward spends day seven binge-watching The Good Wife.
This is my typical way of [not] keeping the Sabbath. I will rest, I say, when I’m finished with my work. When the sermon is written. When the house is clean. When the inbox is empty.
But when God delivers the fourth commandment, it is not the creation God references, but the exodus.
God commands the people to rest and remember a time when they had more work than they could ever finish and were powerless to effect change. In that remembered moment, God accomplished what they could not imagine, what they had not even dared to place on their to-do lists.
Sabbath rest is not for remembering what we have done, but what God has done.
That means the right time for sabbath is not when our work is finished, but when it has piled up until we cannot see over it into a hopeful future. At those overwhelming times, we are called to stop and remember the one whose power far exceeds our own. And in that knowledge we can truly rest.
Higher Power, may the many moments when I find I cannot do it all draw me back to rest in you.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.