Sabbath: The Command to Step Out of the Curse
I'm back. This time with hot peppermint tea in my lap, all the covers pulled up, space heater blazing toward me in the bed. Warm drinks and winter and the slow of Sunday afternoon make for heart searching and life dreaming and space to exhale and inhale.
Last Sunday I sat to start to study meals in Scripture. It's another story for another day, how I don't cook but want to and feel increasingly convicted to learn because I'm *only* 30 yet. So I sat to read about the genesis of food and the first recorded meal where everything went wrong. All wrong.
But it struck me as I read the story of the fall with fresh eyes how every part of Adam's curse on work is directly linked to eating, and vice versa. Because mankind chose rebellion against the Creator, the ground would only begrudgingly budge new life when watered with sweat. And there would be no break, no end in sight.
"...in pain you shall eat of [the ground] all the days of your life..."
Pain and hunger and body-crushing work are the curse of the fall. Every single day of the week, month, year, lifespan.
"By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground..."
Relief comes when we no longer need to sustain our dusty selves with the fruit of the ground, when we're reunited with the dirt that forms us and decompose into it.
Until then, work will hurt, result in thorns and thistles just as often as it results in productivity and progress, and never end. No day will come when it is painless and free to eat and thrive.
What then is the command to Sabbath?
The first Sabbath occurred before the fall, when God finished all His work in creation. Nothing was left undone, and He rested. At the end of work, rest followed.
But then we fell from the perfection of our intrinsic God-likeness and endless toil became the hallmark of the human condition.
Nearly 3000 years later God writes His commandments on tablets of stone to be given to the people, and there, fourth on the list, is the command to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy and do no work.
Nestled in the middle of the foundation of the Law is a command that could read so much more like an invitation, if we'd let it.
It's as if the Lord is saying, "Yes, you fell from Eden and your work will never end, but you belong to Me now, and I Am the One who completes all I seek to accomplish. Come to Me and find rest for your souls, relief from the curse, lifting of the burden."
In reality, every command of God is an invitation out of slavery to sin and into the freedom of loving Him and loving others. But this command strikes me particularly kind. It's the one that most directly remedies the curse on our original sin. In our fall from grace we deserve to work endlessly, but the God who made us invites us back to Shalom, to perfect peace, by commanding that we break the curse each and every week, setting aside time where we abandon the toil and devote our hearts and hands to Him afresh and at rest.
It's often said there's no such thing as Sabbath for moms, and I understand the thought process. Our people are no less hungry or naked or dirty or disobedient on the Sabbath than they are any other day of the week. Mouths must be fed, bottoms wiped, and a lot of messes cleaned.
But I cannot escape the glaring absence of an asterisk in the the text. There is no footnote that says, "only the mothers should keep working as always because the God who made the heavens and the earth in six days and then rested on the seventh needs their perpetual labor in order to keep the universe spinning." Despite my feelings that my little world needs me run ragged seven days straight on end, there is no biblical support for such a lifestyle.
Certainly there are seasons for Sabbath and different ways to rest for different personalities, but there is never a time when it has not been commanded by a generous and loving and competent Sovereign Ruler of the universe.
For my motherhood right now, it looks its own certain way.
I don't usually sleep in, but I almost always nap.
I don't force my people to fast from eating, but we go out for lunch after church and eat some variety of brinner (breakfast for dinner) in the evening. Some weeks, that means we've had two meals of Cheerios in a day. And we're all happy and rested.
Dishes make it to the sink, but intentionally no further. We eat on disposable plates occasionally.
We say no to nearly every Sunday afternoon invitation to showers, birthdays, and social events (we're introverts who love being with people, but a seventh day of nonstop interactions is, for us, most definitely work).
No clothes are washed, bathrooms cleaned, floors swept or mopped.
We do extra reading, extra quiet, independent play for James, family walks, and sometimes a musical jam session. We do football or golf if the season allows and we nap and talk and recharge.
Then, yes, I wake up to some extra dishes on Monday morning, laundry more than ready to be sorted and washed, and a very long to-do list stretching out over the six days ahead.
But I also wake reminded that I belong to the God who kept the world spinning, who orchestrated the funds and resources to put cereal in our cabinet and milk in our fridge, who held me up all week long and then whispered new life into my soul as my brain rested from toil.
He affirms that work is good and mine is waiting and He will give all the energy for accomplishing that which He intends.
Sabbath, a generous command, proves itself to be a lifeline out of the pit of the curse, out of the hamster wheel of life on hungry earth. It's a day to feast on the all-sufficiency of the God who invites me into the rest that only He deserves.
May you feast on Him this week, friend, and find He holds your world together too.