It’s not that I’m under the illusion that I am limitless. I know I’m not, I just sometimes live in denial. It’s like a sickness. True confession time: I really really hate feeling weak. I love that feeling when I’m getting everything done, taking care of everything and everyone, and not feeling overwhelmed by it. The problem is that feeling only comes around about 1.7% of the time. That number may even be a stretch. Most of the time, I’m running around all bedraggled and sweaty, getting every job half-way done and forgetting at least 2 important things. Just ask my mother-in-law: I never make it out of her house with all our stuff. I hate stuff (sippy cups, cell phones, keys, blankies, pony tail holders, etc). Just add it to the list of things in my life mocking my inability to be on top of everything. I NEVER have all my stuff. I hate that moment when we’re at a restaurant, my toddler’s getting antsy and fussy and my husband, trying to be helpful, asks, “Do you have crayons?” or “Do you have her water cup?” or “Did you bring a snack?” No. Of course I did not. Because this situation has only occurred 236 times before, and so clearly I needed 237 to learn my lesson on being prepared. I’m rarely prepared. I’ve almost accepted the fact that I probably won’t ever be. Almost.
By God’s mercy I’ve been spending the last few years trying to acknowledge and make peace with my limits. It’s a painful process, this killing of my pride. See, I beam annoyingly when I DO miraculously remember something I’m supposed to. The ugly truth is that I love to look like I have it all together (rare and fleeting though those moments are), because I’m still working through my brokenness. I’m still waging war on my faulty identities. And through this journey of putting my pride to death, Sabbath is a gift.
My pride is a relentless taskmaster, and God gives me Sabbath as a stepping stone on the pathway to freedom. It’s a way of saying NO to the endless demands on me in a way that honors God and acknowledges my limitations. “Be still and know that I am God.” Sabbath is a way to practice this. When I’m trapped on pride’s toxic treadmill, I find myself saying, “Get it together, Katherine. Keep it together.” There are two problems with that. First, it’s rude, and God just won’t have his children being talked to that way. Second, I was never meant to “keep it together”. There is someone much bigger than I holding all things together, and I need never pretend to be that person.
“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17)
When I pretend I can do it all and I refuse Sabbath, I’m really saying I can play God, which is the height of all arrogance. It’s like standing in defiance to the very one who lovingly hand-crafted me, who knows me better than I know myself, and saying “No. I know best. I can do it better.” It’s refusing his perfect design and hard-wiring, and imposing my faulty ideas of myself instead.
I realize that may sound a little dramatic, but neglecting Sabbath is never verbalized that bluntly, of course. No, it usually sounds more like, “Oh, it would be nice to rest, but I can’t take a break because I just have too much to do”. Or “too many people are counting on me”. Or “if I take a break, people will think I’m lazy, incompetent, etc. etc.” (See, pride.) I can totally commiserate. I have these feelings all. the. time. In fact, I think most Americans feel this pressure most of the time. That’s why practicing Sabbath is counter-cultural. It’s subversive to the way the world works. In a world that screams “GO! WORK! DO!”, Sabbath quietly invites, “Stop. Rest. Be.”
Jesus, who is God himself in human form, showed us the true way to live, and it is countercultural in almost every way. Every part of his life showed us how we were intended to walk out our humanity. If you want an example of someone who was “too busy for Sabbath”, it would’ve been Jesus in the height of his ministry. I mean, he was IN DEMAND. He was IMPORTANT. Crowds followed him everywhere, and at times he couldn’t even get time to eat because so many people needed him. And yet Scripture’s accounts of his life tell us he frequently took opportunity to steal away alone. He recognized his need to just be with his Father, to rest and pray. He knew he was dependent on his Father, and that the divine plan would not crumble if he took a time out. If God HIMSELF practiced Sabbath, how absurd to think I’m above that. How utterly prideful and self-important.
Sabbath is about humility. It’s about honoring our Creator by acknowledging the fact that we as humans have limits, and that we are not ultimately in control. The earth will go right on spinning without us pedaling our wheels. This is a shocking realization for some. For me, that realization sounds more like: “disaster will not strike if I choose to leave a dirty kitchen for an afternoon”, or “impending doom will not come upon everyone if some boxes on my to-do list are left unchecked today.” In order to become the person I was made to be, I have to respect my own humanity, and the limitless God who created me.
I want my life to reflect the glory of God, not my own glory. The apostle Paul tells us that in our weakness, he’s shown to be strong. We show God off when we quit showing off. I would so much rather admit to my shortcomings, and to take the way of humility and dependence, than to burn out in my foolish pride. When I choose to humble myself and admit my need for Sabbath, I walk in the very footsteps of Jesus. The world desperately needs people who will humbly point to Jesus and not their own accomplishments. Let’s be those people. Let’s take time to practice Sabbath, even when it’s killing our pride.