Another harrowing week on the job leaves me drained, and I know that I am not unique. The strain of our on-the-run culture is robbing us of our freedom and the quality in our lives. A recent article in the Kansas City Star poignantly pointed out that our information age has linked us to our offices 24/7 not only from home but from virtually anywhere in the world. Our cell phones and laptops make it next to impossible to escape the yoke of our employment’s reach.
The age of just-in-time inventory, instant messages, and overnight delivery are symptoms of a culture that demands what it wants and demands it now. The luxury of taking one’s time is no longer afforded us, let alone a full escape from the pressures of daily living.
When God cleaned up the void and emptiness of Genesis 1, he could have completed the job in the blink of an eye. But instead we get the picture of a God who savors his creative endeavors and takes seven full days to do what he could have done in a nanosecond, every step of the way punctuated with shouts of joy that "this is good." That lesson is too easily lost on the high-speed, broad-band highways of our lives.
And there is another lesson too often lost in the busyness of our days. After the sixth day, the day on which the man and the woman were made, God looked at them and essentially said, "Let’s take a break" (Genesis 2:2-3). This was a day to spend time with God and with each other, and it was a blessing indeed. Too often we are so busy doing that we forget about taking time just for being. The concept of the Sabbath rest is for just that: to be rather than to do. It forces us to slow down and contemplate the important things in life, to spend time with those we love, and to reconnect with the real Power of the universe.
As the children of Israel were poised to enter the Promised Land, Moses reminded them of the Ten Commandments given to their nation forty years before. Much is heard today, some 3500 years later, about the wisdom of this law, but that fourth one is too often relegated to being the least of the Commandments. But as Moses pointed out in Deuteronomy 5, God gave the Sabbath as a great gift. "You were a slave in Egypt," Moses told them. Slaves don’t get days off. With God’s law you get a day off, and that’s a sign that you are free men and women. "The Lord brought you out from there by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day" (Deuteronomy 5:15).
We might not think of ourselves as slaves, but in a very real sense we are. We are burdened with our need to earn a living. We are encumbered with responsibilities. We are laden with worries about tomorrow and beyond. We are stressed with activities and responsibilities that spin beyond our control. But the Fourth Commandment declares a "No Stress Zone". Claiming that zone is a declaration of freedom, a time where we are free to slow down and savor the good things in life and appreciate the things that are truly important: our families, our friends, and our God.