It’s a long weekend - the first official long weekend of summer. Happy (belated) Canada Day! To our American family and friends, Happy 4th of July!
Whether you took Friday or take today as your celebration day, it is a bit of a teaser for holiday time yet to come. Are you ready for a vacation? That is a rhetorical question - who doesn’t enjoy their holiday time?
Whenever that comes and whatever it looks like, I hope it is a phenomenal time of refreshment and renewal. Regular periods of rest and renewal are part of God’s rhythm of life. In the creation process, God Himself finished the job by taking a day off. Being the infinite and eternal Almighty God, He obviously wasn’t tired or nursing sore muscles from a week of hard, create-all-that-exists kind of work.
When God rested after six days of creative handiwork, it was so He could (a) set a precedent for His own creation, and (b) enjoy the beauty of His creation. Based on God’s own pattern of work-rest, the idea of Sabbath became part of the covenant God made with His people. Taking one day a week to cease from their labours was intended to remind them that it was God who provided the necessaries of life. Yes, people had to work. Fields had to be prepared, seeds had to be sown, harvest had to be gathered, barns had to be built to store the harvest, animals needed to be tended, homes needed to be built, clothes have to be sown and mended . . . work is a part of life.
From a creation-theology perspective, though, work-more does not necessarily equal have-more. It is true that hard work brings greater benefits and provision than laziness. But even in all the efforts we may exert into our work, we must remember that it is God who provides. He does so without discrimination (the rain falls on the just and the unjust - Matthew 5:45) so all people can receive provision. Yet for those who understand that this IS our Father’s world, we realize that the provision found in the earth’s resources are gifts of God’s grace to all of us. Our provision is His providence.
Here is the trap into which we can fall: we easily assume - and most people do - that more work means more stuff. Because we like stuff, we work harder. Work can consume us. We assume a false sense of self-sufficiency. If we can dream it, we can do it. We can accomplish anything we set our minds to.
There is enough truth in that thinking to make it plausible. Let’s be clear: it is a deception. Enter the concept of Sabbath.
The purpose of the Sabbath was to remind God’s people of their dependence on Him. It was a day - weekly, monthly, and even special days twice a century - where people hit the “Reset” button of life. On Sabbaths, no life-sustaining work was to be done, no pursuit of accumulating more.
Sadly, the idea of Sabbath has been misinterpreted and misrepresented. It has come to mean “a day of no activity.” “Rest” means “take a nap.” That wasn’t the original intention.
We are no longer obligated to keep the Sabbath as an expression of faith. However, the purpose of the Sabbath is still valid: that we regularly take time to “rest” to enjoy the blessings of God as demonstrations of His providence and grace, and that we remind ourselves that HE is the source of all things. Yes, we must do our work, but the fruits of those efforts are the blessing of God.
What does this have to do with long weekends and holiday time? In our culture, this is part of how we “Sabbath.” As a post-industrial, technological culture, we are afforded opportunities to step away from work and labour. Our society has built in rest times. Most of us don’t have to tend animals every day just to survive. Most of us can step away from our day-to-day labours to enjoy a different pace and change of scenery. This is a blessing of God.
If you have some holiday time coming, be sure to take it. Not only will it refresh and renew, it can serve to help us refocus our sense of dependence on God. It does the heart and body good to take a deep breath and say, “Thank You, God, for Your grace and providence in our lives.” Enjoy the beauty of His creation, the creativity of His image-bearers, and the joy of experiencing something different.