I read 24/6 by Dr. Sleeth on coast-to-coast flights in the spring and then quoted from it in one of my weekly emails to the Sabbath Society. What I didn’t know is that the program manager for his non-profit, Blessed Earth, happens to be one of the 300+ recipients reading those letters of encouragement. A whole chapter of serendipity goes along with this introduction but without further ado, I’m beyond giddy about hosting Dr. Sleeth’s wise words. Read them and find a surprise at the end waiting for you.
When I was working as an ER physician, people often called me a workaholic. I’m not surprised. For far too many years, I worked 24-hour shifts in the hospital. During my teens, I knew what it felt like not to have enough to eat. And so when I became a husband and father, I never wanted my family to, well, want for anything.
It was not until I became a Christian in my forties that I discovered God’s answer to our always-on, 24/7 culture of work, work, work. His answer first appears in the opening pages of Genesis. God’s rhythm since the beginning of time has been 24/6—six days on, and one day off. And when I began adopting that rhythm, my entire life changed for the better—physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
What does the word “Sabbath” mean? It simply means “stop.” That’s all. The Hebrew people didn’t have names for the days of the week. There was one-day, two-day, three-day, four-day, five-day, six-day, stop-day.
The fourth commandment says that we don’t work on stop day. We don’t make our sons work; we don’t make our daughters work; we don’t make anybody in our household work. We don’t make strangers work; we don’t make illegal aliens work; we don’t make minimum wage employees work. We don’t make anything work, including the cattle and the chicken and the sheep. We stop. We cool our jets. We just idle our engines on that day.
When my wife Nancy started teaching, she had a student named Clinton. Clinton’s essay on the first day of class was three pages long. It didn’t have a comma; it didn’t have a period; it didn’t have a paragraph in it. It was a three-page, run-on sentence.
I don’t think God intended our lives to be like that paper—just one long, run-on sentence. The work of our life is meant to be punctuated by rest. Musicians talk about this. They say that it’s not the notes that make the song, but the pauses in between the notes. This rhythm is equally true for our lives.
I have a memory from when my kids were younger that defines Sabbath rest for me. We lived in a house that had a big attic with a window on either side. The only thing in the attic was a hammock and a pull rope. The kids and I went in there one evening when it was too cold outside, but it was perfectly warm inside. My son Clark was on one shoulder, pulling on the rope, and my daughter Emma was on the other shoulder. I read a book to them and, at the end I put the book on the floor. In that quiet, while the swaying of our hammock slowed down, they both fell asleep.
I think that heaven is going to be a whole lot more like that moment than the typical Monday at work. Best of all, when practiced regularly, Sabbath is a piece of heaven that can be taken with us into the other six days of the week.
If you can’t imagine twenty-four hours of rest, start with four or six hours of holy rest, but just start. Stopping is about restraint. It’s not about doing everything that we can. It’s about finding the peace of God that passes all understanding.
The Sabbath is not meant to be saved by humanity; rather, humanity is meant to be saved by the Sabbath. I know from first-hand experience. After practicing the Sabbath for almost a decade, I have seen how it has flowed into the other six days of my week. I still work hard, but I always know that Sabbath is just around the corner—an oasis of complete and holy rest.
Sabbath rest has saved countless numbers of patients from the physical, emotional, and spiritual consequences of unremitting stress. If practiced regularly, the Sabbath can save you, too.
I pray that you remember to open up this gift of stopping one day a week. I pray that you find peace in this weekly sanctuary of time. I pray that you will be still and that, through rest, you will come to know God. And it will be good.
Does your life feel like one run-on sentence? If so, how can you begin to punctuate your week with rest? Answer one of these two questions or share something new you read here that inspires new thinking about Sabbath. Dr. Sleeth is giving away a copy of his book and DVD (great for groups), 24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life to one person who leaves a comment.
Join us every Wednesday in September for more discussion about a rhythm of rest from 24/6 at Redemptions Beauty Book Club.
Matthew Sleeth, MD, a former ER physician, is the executive director of Blessed Earth and author of 24/6 (book and DVD). He lives in Lexington, KY, with his wife Nancy and two children. For more Sabbath resources, visit Sabbathliving.org.
My life sure does feel like one big run-on sentence right now. I’m trying to rein it in, starting with a few hours at a time. Some seasons just seem more difficult than others to stretch out in the slow. But I will save this image of the hammock in the attic and cling to that little bit of peace when life gets hectic.
The elusive stop! How I wish to fully experience it. I too often ALLOW other things to slip in.
My process of Sabbath has evolved. Finally, I am where I can let things go…if that is what I choose to do. Other days when I am observing, I find that if I take a few minutes to do one small thing that is annoying me, the rest of the day is much more restful. As Dr. Sleeth says on page 58 “Sabbath is meant to be a refuge, not a prison.” Some Sabbath days look different than others, but the idea and process of resting I am finding to be very beneficial…although, it looks different from week to week.
Thank you so much for these encouraging words today.
They say that it’s not the notes that make the song, but the pauses in between the notes.
Oh how I long to live in this rhythm. When I get to the pause in my week, I struggle to settle in and enjoy the moment.
Thank you for joining us in the journey!
I’m learning Sabbath doesn’t have to be a HUGE chunk of time, but it can be snuggle time with my little guy and purposely putting down the ever present grad school reading. Definitely a DVD set to talk about in small group.
So much goodness & truth in this post … “We just idle our engines on that day.” “The work of our life is meant to be punctuated by rest.” “Best of all, Sabbath is a piece of heaven that can be taken with us into the other six days of the week.” Wow! The other six days will be so different because of the Sabbath! I so need the change. Grateful to be here & to have you here as well 🙂 Thank you!
I am hearing women of all ages express to me their need for rest. I think this is so crucial in our world. How did we get like this? God knew the rhythm we needed, let’s remember that.
Seriously. This has awakened my soul to His greatness… in the beauty of Stop. I get it. If we seek it, we can find it. It’s His promise. Thank you!
There was a pivotal moment of insight when I gave myself permission to realign my thinking, to walk slower, to attend more closely, to embrace Sabbath experience more deeply.
The rhythm God designed, six days on, one day to stop. I love what Dr. Sleeth said about beginning to look forward to his weekly Sabbath. That the stopping wasn’t a burden, but a blessing. I’m just at the beginning of my journey to live 24/6 and right now it still feels cumbersome and clunky, but I’m hopeful and excited to see how following the Lord’s lead in this will lead to more of Him in me.
Interesting that Sabbath means “stop”. God also says in Exodus 20:8, to keep the Sabbath holy. I have been trying to not only stop, but make that time focused on God. Now that I have decided what my block of time will be for Sabbath (6pm Sat – 6pm Sun for me), I look forward to having that time for me to focus on God each week. It’s actually enjoyable. I still cook, because my husband and I enjoy doing that together, but I “stop” other chores. What’s great is we can each make our “stop” day, whatever set time works for us. And we can define “stop” how we want to, such as no work at all, or no computer, or whatever we need to stop.
Your book sounds wonderful, and this is such a meaningful post. I was just practicing my Bach, and yes, I am impressed by the rests in the score. They allow me to catch my breath, hear other voice parts, and they add dynamism to the flow of the music, by contrast. Who cannot help but think of that pregnant pause in the Hallelujah Chorus? The ending would not be nearly as climactic without it. I think, too, of this great quote by concert pianist Artur Schnabel: “The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes–ah, that is where the art resides.” It seems to me, Dr. Sleeth, that by pausing, stopping, and observing the rest of Sabbath, you are creating art with your life. I hope to be able to read your book and glean more wisdom about making art.
PS And this comment: We don’t make strangers work? Wow, that really convicted me! How often have I had luncheon or dinner out in a restaurant on Sunday or stopped in a grocery to pick something up? I wouldn’t have to do this. By my actions, I am making strangers work. Sobering.
Wonderful post. Thanks for sharing about sabbath rest here on Shelly’s space. Thank you for the giveaway too 🙂
I like the idea of your life being like a good essay. As I read to my children, and do all the character’s voices, and I often take very dramatic pauses. The children wait with bated breath. The pauses make the text more meaningful. You have time to reflect on the story- as in the sabbath, we relect on The Story-we get perspective on life. One of the better analogies on sabbath that I have read. Thank you for sharing it!
I really like Dr. Sleeth’s comment: “The Sabbath is not meant to be saved by humanity; rather, humanity is meant to be saved by the Sabbath.” In reading through Genesis-Numbers over the summer, there were two things that really stood out to me that relate to this quote. The first one was Exodus 31:13 which says, “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you.'” The Sabbath is intended for us to remember that it is God alone who sanctifies us, makes us holy. There isn’t anything we can do to make ourselves more holy. Imagine being the people who heard those words for the first time along with “be holy, for I am holy,” and how much the Lord was pointing to the finished work of Jesus in the midst of both of those statements. A Sabbath rest for the people of Israel was purposed so that they could rest not just their bodies, but their souls in the God who works on their behalf, as we, being now in the New Covenant, are called to receive what Christ has already done for us and to continue the practice of soul rest and remembrance that we are and can do nothing apart from Him. What grace that God asks our obedience in resting, not to bind us to some law, but instead to free our hearts of striving.
The second thing that stood out was how often God refers to the Sabbath in these books. And it seemed to me that He highlighted that commandment more so than any of the others. Almost like keeping the Sabbath is the “key” (if you will) that enables the keeping of all the other ones. But again, not that we can keep the commandments of God in and of ourselves. But there is something to this practice of remembering and resting in what God does for us and in us (and what He has done) that seems to be a catalyst, and something quite monumental in His eyes.
I have been observing Sabbath, to some degree, for a number of years, and teach about it from time to time, but Dr. Sleeth said a couple of new things that resonate with me. I especially like his image of Sabbath giving our lives beauty and meaning much as the rests do for music and punctuation does for good writing. I was also struck by the simplicity of his quotable statement: “The Sabbath is not meant to be saved by humanity; rather, humanity is meant to be saved by the Sabbath.” I’m eagerly looking forward to reading Dr. Sleeth’s book, and will do so whether I’m the one chosen to receive the free copy or not. Thank you, Dr. Sleeth, for sharing your wisdom about this life-giving practice, and to you Shelly, for hosting him.
Wow! Truth is refreshing.
I scheduled a tweet to share this next week. (Are you on Twitter?) Great post!
Much insightful truth here. Especially appreciated this line: “Sabbath is a piece of heaven that can be taken with us into the other six days of the week.” The refreshment and restoration of those Sabbath hours do indeed energize us for the week ahead. Lord, help me to remember that and not allow the tyranny of the urgent to take over. Help me to follow the wisdom of Your 24/6 plan.
When my hubby and I were first married (28 years ago), we belonged to a church who lived the seventh day sabbath. As life happens, each decision took us away and soon we were caught up in the 24/7. Lately, though, I have been intentionally leaving white space on 7th day–taking the time to breath and be still. So excited to discover some of these awesome resources.
Growing up and even when I began my career thirty years ago, businesses were closed on Sunday. Since I worked in retail this was a joy. You knew you were going to have that day to rest. As times changed we have still managed to keep this day as a day of rest and family.