Rest.

 

It ranks up there with "cake," "love," and "home" as one of my favorite words, yet is probably at the top of my list of "most elusive ideals!"

 

We've turned rest into a dirty word, it seems. Our culture, fueled by the multitude of conveniences now at our command, has made resting paramount to wasting time. When we can multi-task, why should we ever consider being nonproductive? Be honest--don't you feel just a bit guilty when you realize your "power nap" became a 2-hour snooze on a Saturday afternoon? I'll never get that time back!

 

So, we've jammed each and every day full of activity, even to the point of opening our grocery stores and shopping malls on Sundays. Finally, we tell ourselves, we can schedule our lives as we see fit…unless, of course…we actually work at one of those places now featuring Sunday hours. Then, it seems, our family time, our spiritual lives, our much-needed rest must be sacrificed for the convenience of others, or—more likely—the competitive edge of our employers.

 

One of the most wonderful experiences I enjoyed visiting Israel recently was the peace—the shalom—of the Shabbat, or Sabbath. I can still picture the transformed face of Amir, our tour guide, as he returned to us from that precious time spent with God, and his family. I remember the quiet streets and empty stores as the people, the city—it seemed, the land itself—enjoyed respite from the 24-hour footrace that is life in the 21st century.

 

In the days of my PA childhood, Sunday "blue laws" helped compel us to observe a sort of "Westernized" version of this most sacred ritual, but it never really came close to the higher calling of Scripture. For observant Jews, Shabbat is much more than a mere day of prayer, or a time of rules and restrictions. It's a much-anticipated, joyfully-received, TV-free time to bless one's children, family, and home. By remembering and observing the Sabbath day, it is made "holy," which means it is set apart for God. Not just that we might worship Him, but that we may yield to Him a day He can use to refresh and restore us!

 

Perhaps, as a society, we are past the days we might agree to carve out a day each week to set aside the baser, daily demands of mere capitalism in favor of the higher pursuits of faith and family. If so, we'll continue to suffer from the cumulative effects of unrelenting physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual exhaustion. But much worse, we'll miss out on one of God's greatest gifts to His beloved children: the privilege of sharing in His Shabbat.