The first time I started noticing how busy I was, I was in middle school. The guidance counselor called me down to her office and told me that my teachers had noticed that I seemed to be pulled every which way during the school day. We had about a half an hour chat, in which I assured her I wasn’t overwhelmed by the seven or so extracurricular activities that I was a part of, and I went on my way. I waited a few weeks to tell my mom about the discussion because she and my dad had pointed out that I was involved in quite a bit and seemed to be exhausting myself.

Fast forward to high school, specifically my tenth grade year, when I had a teacher look at me and remark that my stress level was way too high. My response was “that’s just life”. After all, I was taking honors courses with plenty of homework, still had extracurricular activities (although not as many as three years before), and life outside of high school to deal with. My life had become a cycle of wake up, go to school, homework, dinner, extracurricular, more homework, sleep, repeat. (And the sleep part wasn’t as long as it should have been.)

A year later, I was still stuck in the same cycle, only this time it was worse. I’d dug myself into a ditch I couldn’t get back out of. I needed a break. Rest. But if I took a break, even a single day off of school and homework, I’d have makeup work on top of stuff I already had to do. My chemistry teacher noticed. My AP Lit teacher noticed. My parents noticed. My lifegroup leader at church noticed. I struggled balancing schoolwork with the rest of life. There was conversation between the adults. I was stuck in the one track mind of ‘just get this done, then you can rest’. One of my teachers pulled me one day and told me I NEEDED to take a break, even if it was only five minutes a day. They offered both help with chemistry, the class I was currently having trouble in, and their classroom as a place to sit. It was during one of these ‘help, chemistry is going to kill me’ sessions that they brought up sabbath.

I LOVED the idea. Honestly, I did. A day of rest to show God that I trusted he was in control. But could I really take the time to rest? I had four hours of chemistry work alone in addition to essays and reading due for AP Lit. That was only two of four classes. And then there was personal stuff going on. I barely had time for youth group on Wednesday nights…there was no way I could afford to take an entire day off of schoolwork. I’d fall behind. My grades would tank…and it wasn’t that I obsessed over my grades, but I had to keep them up to stay in NHS and for college. I’d get so backlogged on work that I’d never catch up. In my mind, sabbath was an awesome idea. Once summer rolled around, it would be amazing!

I never did a sabbath day. I always pulled the excuse that life was too busy. That maybe, once it slowed down a little, taking a sabbath day would be great. But what I learned is that there will always be an excuse. There will always be something in life that just begs for our attention. That thing that is SO pressing that the world will explode if it doesn’t get done…or will it?

God has been putting sabbath on my mind again recently. OneLife staff have encouraged me take a sabbath day multiple times over the past few months. For a while, my thought process was “yeah, that’s a great idea. Any week but this week would be great.” But then, just this past week, I finally took an intentional day of rest. And yes, it was hard. There was a lot I wanted to do homework wise. (Like this blog.) But I went into it going “okay Abba, I know I’m not always that great at trusting you. I like to be in control, but today I’m going rest. Slow down and take a deep breath. Trust you. Prepare myself for the once in a lifetime Israel experience you’re giving me this week. I’m going to soak in your goodness and your love for me.” And so that’s what I did. I spent the day hanging out with friends, folding laundry, packing, writing letters to people at home, and watching The Fellowship of the Rings with a bunch of (probably overly caffeinated) OneLifers.

It was beyond amazing-what just twenty four hours can do. And every moment of the day I felt God beside me asking, “isn’t this great? This is what I want for you. This is what taking a deep breath feels like.” For the first time in months, I feel refreshed. I’ve dug into what sabbath means and why it’s so important. In Even Better Than Eden, Guthrie puts it this way: “God has given us the gift of a day-one day different from all the other days in our week-to push away from the table of the world that fills us up with its expectations and commitments. This gift invites us, instead, to pull up a chair at the table where God himself wants to fill us up with himself and take on himself all the things that are weighing on us.” This explanation of sabbath echos the invitation of Jesus in Matthew 11:28 “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest”.” Justin McRoberts (one of our speakers) defined sabbath as: “one whole day of rest from work, without obligation, every week, committed to God.” Sabbath is God’s day. His invitation to us to experience the peace and rest only He can give. It looks different for everyone, but the intent is the same no matter who you are.

We see the idea of sabbath repeated over and over again in scripture, from the very beginning of Genesis to the end in Revelation. God rested, not because he was tired, but because he wanted us to follow His example. He declares the day holy. The third commandment is to observe the sabbath day. Over and over again we see Him both instruct the Israelites on what resting looks like and also mourn the fact that they misuse the day He’s set aside for them. In our Even Better Than Eden bible study, we dove into the idea that one day, in a place even better than Eden, we’ll be able to participate in a day of rest that will never ever end. And if that’s the case, we should take the time, once a week, to anticipate the rest that is awaiting us.

And that, at least in my opinion, is definitely worth celebrating!

-Amara Sherman


(as we get ready for Israel)