Friday, September 30, 2011

computer Sabbath

A couple of weeks ago, I was totally ready to lose it.  The stress was piling up so high.  It seemed like I had constant commitments and projects: some for church, some of my own goals, some for husband and Burrito, some for others, some for writing projects.  And most of it centered around the computer.  Which makes sense, since my main skill set is writing.  But I just COULDN'T TURN IT OFF.

It wasn't that I disliked doing any of the projects I was committed to.  In fact, I loved every single one of them and every single one used my gifts and abilities.  I wasn't coloring outside the lines of how God designed me.  It was just that there was so much to do.  And I wasn't getting the down time that my introvert self needs in order to function well.

That this coincided with truly in-earnest toddler behaviors and some attempts at potty training did not make it any easier.  I felt upset at myself for over-commiting and doing the things I love to do.  Was I really being fair to my husband and daughter who need an unstressed, stable person at home?

And then I remembered something I have practiced during stressful times in the past.  When I was in North Dakota, I was getting a lot of stressful emails (and in this case, they were not related to happy situations in which I was using my gifts...they related to strife and judgment, and discussing strife and judgment with trusted friends).  And I was getting so stressed out by having to be "on" all the time that I began to adhere to a computer Sabbath.  This meant powering down the socially "on" button, saying no to workaholism and trusting that all the same problems and responsibilities would be there the next day.  I think I took my day off in North Dakota (Monday) as my computer Sabbath.  And it helped.  I was able to get as much of a mental break as I could muster in the situation, such as it was.

So as I began to feel pretty darn stressed out here in Montana, I decided to bring the computer Sabbath back.  I think that finding Sabbath is even harder for stay-at-home parents and other people who work at home than it is for those who work outside the home.  For most people who work outside the home, there is a clear end time of work and oftentimes even a whole weekend to enjoy.  I understand nobody's time schedule is perfect and we all have challenges getting in time to rest, recreate, and build relationships with our loved ones, but I think stay-at-home people and always-on call-people like pastors and doctors have a particularly difficult time.

We all need to learn how to use the "off" button for our work.  Work can be a wonderful and meaningful thing, particularly when it is work that we feel gifted for and called to do (as I do with my writing--for pay and for volunteer opportunities--and my work as a mother and support to my husband).  But even joyful work is a work from which we need rest.

There could be no more joyful work than God's artistic work of creating the whole world.  Think of the colors, the detail, the beauty.  And no one needed rest less than God Himself.  He is self-sufficient in Himself.  But He knew that we would need to rest.  And so on the seventh day, after six days of creation, God rested.  He did this so that we would learn to stop what we are doing and rest too.

To take a Sabbath means to trust in God enough that we take ourselves off of the throne.  Psalm 127:1-3 says, "Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.  In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat-- for he grants sleep to those he loves" (NIV).

What does this mean?  This means that we trust that at the end of the day, we are not responsible for the fate of the world--or the fate of any part of the world.  God has told us to rest and so we do it, trusting in faith that if we do, what He truly wants us to get done will get done.  We stop idolizing ourselves and our efforts in the world and we worship God alone.

And, oh, what a huge sigh of relief when we do this!  We don't have to always be "on."  We can take a rest and recharge and it will be ok

For every person, we may take Sabbath a little differently.  It's not about legalism.  As Jesus once said, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27, NIV).  For me, because I find myself tied to the computer all the time (even for good reasons), because I sometimes focus on it too much, because I get overstressed if I don't take a break from all my projects, a meaningful step is to turn the computer off one day a week.  I do this on Sundays now.

And I'm not gonna kid you.  It's difficult.  Particularly for the first half of the day as I get used to the idea.  I am tempted over and over again to go turn the computer on and check something.  I almost feel like the computer is a third arm; that's how connected I am to it!  And I feel like I am missing an arm when I turn it off.  But that is precisely why I need a break from the computer.  I need to remember that God is on the throne, not me.  I need to nurture relationships with my husband and daughter (all too often, I turn away from them and to a screen).  I need to catch up on my enjoyable reading.  I need to breathe.

And it's amazing...really, little I miss when I step away.  Until I do step away, I essentially believe that I will miss everything if I look away from my computer for a second.  And I suppose once and a while, I may miss something fun or important.  But most of the time, there isn't much going on that matters that much.  And even if I do miss something, it will still be there waiting for me the next day.

I can't tell you the relief and stress reduction I am feeling as I step away from my work for a short time to get the rest God counseled us to take.  God truly is wise. 

How do you find Sabbath in your day to day life?  I'd love to hear your experiences.

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