A few weeks ago, one of our Wesley Biblical Seminary alumni shared a devotional at a seminary Board of Trustees meeting. She is a seminary Trustee, a brilliant scholar, a former pastor, and now a stay-at-home mother of three. In the devotional, she referenced a book on leisure by Dr. John Oswalt. Immediately, she had my attention. Dr. Oswalt is an admired friend, former college president of my alma mater, and retired professor from my current place of Kingdom service.
Upon hearing the theme of the devotional, a colleague and I looked at each other with knowing looks that affirmed our corporate conviction. "Leisure? How do we do that?" was the question we asked ourselves.
I went to Amazon.com and ordered the book as I listened.
I have a confession. One thing you have to know about me is that I am a recovering Sabbath-breaker. Yes, "My name is John and I have failed to keep the Lord's Day holy." No, I don't go to the shopping mall or Wal-Mart to perform my weekly shopping on the Lord's Day. I don't make a habit of buying and selling. I don't miss church to fish or golf.
I work for Jesus on the Lord's Day. Sunday after Sunday. Week after week. I preach. I then drive hundreds of miles. In January and February, 2016, I worked for Jesus 40 days straight without a day off. This activity did not make me holy. It did not render me a spiritual super-hero. It made me a Sabbath-breaker.
Halfway into the 40 day period, I could feel my emotional buffers, my resilience, thinning. I worried more. I stressed more easily. I was easily angered. I was less emotionally available and accessible for my wife. I was a Sabbath-breaker.
I felt convicted of my sin. The sin of working all week as a busy seminary president and preaching every Sunday in a different church. The sin of working as if it all depended upon me. The sin of not taking a break. The sin of not checking out, not turning off the smart phone, refusing to check my email, failing to listen to my wife.
I wasn't sinning willfully, rather neglectfully. By default. I got busy. The work needed done.
In this busy cycle, I spent quality time alone with the Lord daily. I read His Word. I prayed. I read good books. But my mind was cluttered. My soul felt noisy. I could never get entirely quiet.
When Dr. Oswalt's book came in the mail, I had to begin reading it immediately. I am still reading it, soaking, devouring, chewing, pondering, applying.
Among many powerful and convicting thoughts he expressed, Dr. Oswalt penned these poignant words: "Yes, worship is essential to leisure. When we have experienced to the depths of our beings the reality of our Father's love for us, His ability to care for us, His abundant provision for us, and the pure joy of resting in His presence, then we will be ab le to be free from the tyrannical side of the work ethic. We will be able to value His world for itself, not merely for what it can do for us. We will be able to receive without asking whether we have earned it all. We won't need to escape from our minds in our free time, nor will we need to escape the drudgery of our days in more goods-consumptive and exotic entertainment. We will have learned how to be at leisure" (In The Leisure Crisis: a Biblical perspective on guilt-free leisure, Victor Books, 1987, p. 122).
Take a Sabbath!
I have asked my Lord Jesus to forgive me. I have asked Him to help me to keep His day holy. If I have to work on Sunday, I am finding other time in the week to set aside for holy restoration and recreation.
Sunday is our Christian Sabbath. The first day of the week. The Lord's Day. I slept in until 6:00 a.m. I enjoyed my time alone with the Lord in my quiet place. We went to early service and Sunday School. This afternoon, I took a nap. I finished reading a book. I have listened to music, prayed, pondered, and written a few lines. I am living the life of leisure-worship of God and care for the soul.
It's a good life. Take a Sabbath!