Three reasons why Sabbath rest is worth rediscovering
By Margaret Marcuson
Are you worn out? One antidote: take up the ancient practice of Sabbath, whether you are a person of faith or not.
The word “Sabbath” originally comes from Hebrew, “to rest.” I’d like to see more rest in our culture. My hypothesis: if we rest more, we’ll have better relationships and do better work.
Here are three reasons why I believe in taking time for Sabbath:
- It’s biblical
In the creation story in Genesis, however you interpret it, notice this: God rests. If God takes time off in the story, what’s the message for us? Work constantly? I don’t think so.
As a coach for ministers on sustaining themselves in ministry, I advocate time off. Many clergy take only one day, if that. Over time, I see them wear themselves out. It’s hard to lead without enough rest. You lose perspective and stamina.
Of course, this attitude to work is not limited to the church. In the nonprofit world as a whole, and in business, people are constantly in touch with work. I saw an article recently on how to go on vacation without working. That’s becoming a novelty.
I say, if a day of rest is good enough for God, surely it’s good enough for me.
However, if this isn’t compelling for you, try this:
- It’s biological…
First, our bodies need rest. We need sleep, and we live in a culture where sleep is not valued. I’ve never had a high tolerance for sleep deprivation. I need my sleep! This forces me to go to bed at a decent hour because I simply don’t do well otherwise. The more I read about sleep research, the more I realize this is a blessing. Even for those who don’t have my “problem,” not getting enough sleep takes its toll over time.
Second, our brains need rest. Research on productivity and creativity has found that when we turn our attention to something else, we may find solutions for creative problems.
When I was preaching every week, I took Fridays off. I would finish my sermon on Thursdays and come home and say, “This is terrible!” I would let it go, take the Friday off, and somehow when I looked at it again on Saturday, I could immediately see how to fix the problem (and sometimes I could even see there wasn’t really a problem).
- It’s better for everybody.
The most mature, well-functioning people know they are not indispensable. Sabbath is about boundaries. Boundaries between work and not-work, between work time and personal time.
Sabbath is better for you for several reasons:
It gives you mental, emotional and physical space.
You have to practice letting things go. If you think everything depends on you and you can’t take even one day away, you are taking too much responsibility.
You will have to focus more during the time you ARE working to get the Sabbath time.
When you take Sabbath, it’s better for others, too:
They have to figure things out at work without you.
Your co-workers or employees will get the best of you when you are present.
Your family knows they can count on your attention on that day.
Try this: take a day of rest once a week for a month. Then see how you feel.
Bio: Margaret Marcuson helps clergy and churches energize their ministry and fund their vision. www.margaretmarcuson.com