Reading My Life Differently: The Sabbath teaches that I am not God

by Hilary Horn

By Lynne M. Baab

Perhaps you’re like me, and you read Old Testament passages about idols and idolatry from a great distance. I simply can’t relate to someone carving a little object or creating a big, tall  statue and then worshipping it. 

The forms of idolatry that I have to deal with come from a culture that emphasizes material possessions and action, and a family of origin that emphasized competence and one right way of doing everything.

I remember my father expounding on political issues, describing what politicians should be doing. I remember my mother talking about acquaintances, describing what they should do to solve their problems. Everything had a clear-cut answer, and my parents knew that answer. To their credit, they were hardworking, self-disciplined people who made a good life for our family.

The influence of my parents, coupled with the materialism and emphasis on action in the wider culture, created a stew of warped priorities deep inside me. I tend to feel hyper-responsible, as if the world can’t go on without my effort and as if everything in my life depends on my hard work. This idolatry turns me into a sort of mini-God, my wisdom and action essential to the functioning of daily life for myself, my family, and other people in my life.

The Sabbath, more than anything else, has taught me that God is God and I am not. In the six work days of the week, we are called to partner with God in caring for the creation and the people who live in it. My sense of hyper-responsibility isn’t totally inappropriate on the six days, because I am a hard worker like my parents taught me to be.

But on the Sabbath, I am called to stop all that responsible activity. I am called to rest in the arms of the One who really does run the universe. I’m called to enjoy the abundance of a Creator who made the world extravagantly, so abundantly provisioned that I can let go of all my efforts for one day each week and experience being completely superfluous to keeping life going. 

If I worked hard seven days a week, that work would damage me profoundly because it would nurture the belief that everything depends on me, and that I have – or should have – the wisdom and energy to run my own life. My hard work, six days a week, mostly results in good things because the one day of rest each week provides balance.

As I’ve written in my two previous posts on the Sabbath, a day of rest provides the opportunity to read our lives differently. We are freed from slavery. We can enjoy enjoy being a creature intricately designed by a loving God. The Sabbath invites us to view ourselves differently than our culture teaches. In my case, the Sabbath invites me to view myself differently than what my parents modeled for me. 

The Sabbath inscribes deep truths in our hearts in an experiential, non-cognitive, transformative way. As I described in my first post about the Sabbath, it took me about six months of an enforced Sabbath, when living in Israel, to begin to enjoy it. Your first Sabbath day might  not feel very significant. But your tenth or twentieth might!

In our fast paced culture, deciding how to begin a Sabbath, or now to enrich a Sabbath you are already practicing, is challenging. Here are some resources I’ve written:

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1 comment

June Friesen August 7, 2019 - 7:25 am

I am so enjoying these writings on Sabbath. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and challenge.

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