Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work . . . (Exodus 20:9-10)
A few summers ago marked a significant milestone in my son’s education in matters financial. At the age of twelve he bore upon his own shoulders the curse of Adam’s sin and toiled in the heat of the day with a push-mower and a blower. Worn out and sweaty after two hours, he knocked on our neighbor’s door and received the fruit of his labor: a check.
I had watched from a distance while John mowed our next-door neighbor’s yard. I wanted to be able to give practical assistance with our aged and occasionally non-cooperative mower. I was careful to let him do the work, right up until the very end. When he had finished mowing I sent him around to the front door to let our neighbor know he was done with the job – and then I spotted a tuft of grass up under the deck in a hard-to-get-to spot. I knew I could get at it in matter of seconds while John wrapped things up at the door. I cranked the mower and cut the grass.
Big mistake. I knew it when I saw the anger in my son’s face. I thought I was helping, but my over-functioning didn’t help at all.
The true learning experience that day was mine. I was wrong to cut that grass. My inability to stay out of the way sent two messages to my son that I never wanted to send. Message 1: You didn’t do it right. Message 2: I can do it better.
At a deep level our difficulties with Sabbath keeping reflect our inability or refusal to stay out of God’s way for one day each week. Our over-functioning betrays a belief. Our relentless pursuit of productivity betrays a fear. We might have learned to sing “He’s got the whole world in his hand” but we don’t think it’s true when it comes to our world.
Ignoring the Sabbath tells God that we can do things better or we’re not sure God will do them like they ought to be done. But there’s not a corner of your life, neither nook nor cranny, where God has missed a spot. You need not do his work for him just to be sure it’s done right. You can get out of the way – at least for one full day every week.
Where does it seem to you that God has “missed a spot?” Open your hands and prayerfully give that place to the one whose hands hold all things. Receive into your empty hands the gift of a true Sabbath rest.
How easy it is, O God, to say and sing one thing with our lips and then betray those words with our living. We fear that if we truly step aside – from the demands of the week and the demands of others – then things will fall apart. Teach us to trust you, and in that trust lead us to rest. We ask this in the name of the one who trusted completely and perfectly, Jesus our Lord. Amen.