Article by Taylor Allen
Photographs by Ryan Murtagh
As a new semester begins, we college students at UKIRK are already bracing ourselves for what’s to come. So as my Christmas break at home with family started to dwindle to its end, I found myself already overwhelmed by my six new classes I was about to start, how many books and articles I was going to have to find the time to read, having to get a job and balance that with schoolwork. The list goes on. As the five of us pushed these stressors to the backs of our minds and made our way up to Montreat, we found exactly the message we all needed. We found God’s gift of Sabbath, the commandment many of us forget about. Remembering the Sabbath was a perfect theme for not just college students but for everyone. I found myself excited to really dive into the topic and find out what the Lord intended for us when the Bible discusses Sabbath. Learning about Sabbath was exactly what my fellow college students and I needed as the semester began.
Our very first night began with worship and a sermon by Reverend MaryAnn McKibben Dana from Virginia. The scripture that she started us off with was Isaiah 58:11-14 which tells us that through the Lord, we are a watered garden. She told us that Sabbath is simple but it’s not easy. This rang true across all the messages of the keynote speakers and critical conversation group leaders. When asked what their own Sabbaths looked like, many of them sheepishly
admitted that they were not as strict about having a Sabbath day as they should be. I admired their honesty and their humanity. I was glad to know that I wouldn’t be “failing” if I couldn’t immediately alter my life as a college student to include an entire 24 hours of Sabbath. I think God would rather us take at least a few hours of his gift of Sabbath than nothing at all. After all, we are abandoning a spiritual gift when we abandon Sabbath altogether.
Something I kept coming back to when journaling and reflecting over the different sermons and keynote messages was Genesis 1:27. Genesis 1:27 says that “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” God took a Sabbath after he created the universe. God is not a workaholic. If we are created in the image of God, then we can take Sabbaths too. We are not “too good” to take a Sabbath, even a piece of one. We shouldn’t be workaholics if God wasn’t one either. If God, the creator of the universe, had time to rest and take his Sabbath day, then we have the time too despite feeling like our lives are too busy.
I had a few pre-conceived notions about the idea of Sabbath from what little I knew of it. I learned at Montreat College Conference that it was nothing like I thought it was in the best way possible. Both Reverend MaryAnn McKibben Dana who led each worship service’s sermon and the first keynote speaker Dr. Lauren Winner told us that not only is the Sabbath for resting and taking a break from work, but it is also for practicing things that bring us joy and for play so to speak. Sabbath is not just for resting but it is a time for intimacy with others, yourself, and the Lord. It is a time to dwell with God. It helps us glorify and enjoy God. It is a spiritual gift made for us. Sabbath is not resting for the sake of increasing productivity and work. It is not buying into the secular and capitalist ideas of Sabbath, of the popularized self-care movement. It is not selfish despite what society may tell us. In the case of Exodus 5:1-9, Sabbath is not resting to be prepared to make more bricks for Pharaoh. It’s about that we don’t want to make his bricks anymore. Sabbath is liberation: from Pharaoh in the verses of Exodus, from capitalism and bureaucracy in modern times, from being over-worked.
Sabbath is part of our personal relationships between us and God. And this relationship is personal, but it is not private. Sabbath helps us prepare for what’s next in God’s plan for us. According to Reverend Jimmie Hawkins, it is a time of renewal, restoration, and working on our relationships with each other and God. It gives us time to take care of the bodies God has given us. Ultimately, I was left with many new ways of thinking about Sabbath and what it meant to me. For starters, what would it change if I took the things I already enjoy and do and called it Sabbath? What would it look like if I used watercolor painting, reading, or going out with friends to glorify God? How would my life change if I started with a few hours a week of Sabbath and then tried to build it up to a full 24 hours of Sabbath keeping?
The messages preached at Montreat College Conference all left me with the conclusion that Sabbath has many purposes and forms in our relationship with God, that God would rather us take part of a Sabbath than reject his gift altogether, and that Sabbath doesn’t necessarily mean spending all day in bed and it isn’t always on Sunday either. I look forward to starting my semester with God’s commandment of Sabbath in the forefront of my mind. Taking a Sabbath day or even a few hours of Sabbath will not only help me stay rested and prepared for my semester, but it will help me grow in my relationship with God and my relationship with myself. The Sabbath is truly a gift from God that he has laid out on the table for us to take, and I couldn’t be more thankful that our God is so loving and has provided this gift for us.
Taylor is a freshman at Comverse College. She is a member of First Pres of Spartanburg. Her hometown is Moncks Corner, SC