My Junior year of college I was not only a student, but also a teaching assistant and residential advisor. As finals were approaching, I was overwhelmed with the demands on my time – especially with homesick freshmen girls knocking on my door at all hours. I was trying to figure out how I could find time to study for my exams. My anxiety became so overwhelming that my brain was not able to focus when I did find a quiet moment. I decided to make an appointment to talk with the Chaplain.
I sat in front of the Chaplin dramatically explaining how I couldn’t possibly succeed, detailing a list of demands on my time. When I finished, I waited for a pep-talk that would hopefully solve my problem. To my surprise, he said, “Tamra, you need to take a sabbath.” I stared at him astonished. I could not imagine why he would think a “sabbath” would be a solution to my problem. Maybe he didn’t understand me, didn’t understand how important I was. I explained again, with more emphasis, thinking this time he would understand what I was telling him. “Tamra, you need to take a sabbath,” the Chaplain said again. “You need to take 24 hours off and realize the world will not fall apart if you do not do anything. Let God be God and realize you are not.” I imagine my eyes were wide as I stared at him in silence.
After leaving the Chaplin’s office, I decided I might as well try the Sabbath thing – even though I wasn’t convinced. It was a battle in my mind. Anything left undone would surely creep into my mind and I would be immediately filled with anxiety. However, I stuck with this idea of taking a sabbath anyhow. To my surprise, I found the anxiety in my chest faded instead of worsened. I also began to notice things that I usually didn’t: the birds singing their sweet songs, my breath feeling lighter, how much I loved music, watching one of my favorite movies, spending time over coffee with friends. By the end of the day, my soul felt peace and I felt connected to the people I loved. I felt joy in the ordinary life I was living.
“Taking a Sabbath” was of one of the most difficult faith exercises I have ever practiced. I find it far easier to do things “for” God. I discovered that it took extraordinary amounts of faith for me to stop and rest. It is scary to step back and not check my e-mails or stop studying or stop working for a whole day. I had to learn that things can be left undone and trust my world really will not fall apart if I don’t get everything done and that God will remain in control.
I have been practicing taking a sabbath for many years now. I have found my body has adapted to the rhythm of the Sabbath and, it’s essential for my well-being as a counselor, mother, wife, and a pilgrim in this journey of faith. I have also found that when I miss a Sabbath, it affects my day and, I’m tired, disengaged and irritable. Maybe God is inviting you to slow down, take a break, breathe a little deeper, and rest in the knowledge that you do not have to be in control of everything.
The he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27