[Today’s guest post is from Karen Swallow Prior.]
The Bible is clear about our need for rest and re-creation. Besides everything else that it does, rest from our labor restores equilibrium to our lives. As Rev. Tim Keller explains in an article at Q Ideas, “Sabbath rest means to cease regularly from and to enjoy the results of your work. It provides balance.” Whatever it is we do in our labor, our rest needs to provide a counterweight that restores balance to our lives and our being. (Consider the lament wrought by the “busman’s holiday,” which is no Sabbath at all!)
Yet, I don’t go on vacations. I travel a fair amount for missions, for family reunions, for work and so forth, so I do manage to get around. But when I don’t have to be somewhere else, there is simply no place I’d rather be than home. Instead of taking a big chunk of time away, I prefer to re-create every day by taking “little Sabbaths.”
Because my labor—teaching and writing—is primarily mental, rest for me, is physical activity. And because I can do much of my work from home at hours of my choosing, I am able to whittle out a little time almost every day to engage in that “rest,” which for me is running, walking, or biking. The more intense my mental labor is, the more intense my physical exercise becomes, too. And the more time I spend with people—teaching in the classroom, meeting with students or colleagues, serving on committees—the more restful I find the solitude of these daily little Sabbaths.
Jesus exhorted his disciples to do similarly, saying to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31 NAS). If Jesus found such solitude and rest necessary, I know I need it, too.
Yet, these little Sabbaths are about more than just rest. According to Keller, the Sabbath “is about more than just taking time off.” It is about enjoyment, too. And enjoyment is good. Keller explains,
After creating the world, God looked around and saw that “it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). God did not just cease from his labor; he stopped and enjoyed what he had made. What does this mean for us? We need to stop to enjoy God, to enjoy his creation, to enjoy the fruits of our labor. The whole point of Sabbath is joy in what God has done.
Daily Sabbaths bring me great joy as well as refreshment. They allow me to reflect upon what God has done and is doing, in and through me; to give thanks for the work he gives me; and to celebrate the work of His hands. Just as people take pictures on vacations, I like to capture the beauty of my little Sabbaths and share those photos with others on Twitter and Facebook, and now here. The pictures are my little celebrations of my little Sabbaths.
Keller concludes his essay on Sabbath rest with these words:
The purpose of Sabbath is not simply to rejuvenate yourself in order to do more production, nor is it the pursuit of pleasure. The purpose of Sabbath is to enjoy your God, life in general, what you have accomplished in the world through his help, and the freedom you have in the gospel—the freedom from slavery to any material object or human expectation. The Sabbath is a sign of the hope that we have in the world to come.
My little Sabbaths revive my sense of that freedom and that hope, gifts I take back to my work, my community, and my home. Most of all, little Sabbaths allow me to enjoy more fully my life, my work, and my God.
Karen Swallow Prior is Professor of English at Liberty University and the author of Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me (T. S. Poetry Press, 2012). Follow her at Twitter. Her writing is always lucid, always full of blessing, wit and wisdom. She also takes wonderful photographs and regularly posts them on Instagram and Twitter. All photos in this essay are from Karen’s neck of the woods; the captions are hers as well.]
I reviewed Booked in December 2012, and participated as a caller in a radio interview she did the month before (I show up as the last caller, along about 42:30 on the recording, but the whole interview is worthwhile).