Things I Wish I’d Known: Actually Taking a Sabbath

This last topic for my series of posts is one that I think is perhaps most important, but I’m not too sure how applicable it is outside of Asia. When I was in Australia, this issue of work-life balance definitely wasn’t as pronounced, since working late over there meant finishing at 7 or 8 p.m., but over here in Hong Kong, it usually means working past midnight. Regardless, I think the principle applies, and here’s what I have to share.

Take a day off.

Young people often work hard when they’re starting off at their first jobs. Some want to prove that they’re the best, work their way to the top, and win fame and recognition. Others, fueled by idealism and a hunger for justice, want to bring change. Yet others simply love that they’re actually doing something with real-world applications and put their whole hearts into it. Whatever your reason, please continue, but remember:

Take a day off. 

Sure, it’s a biblical command — one of the 10 big ones — so you don’t really need me to tell you that, but seriously, if there’s one thing that I wish I had known when I was younger it’s this:

Take a day off.

OK, headings and formatting jokes aside, you’d be surprised how many people ignore this principle.

For me, I think this is one of the key reasons I’ve been able to survive for so long, even without family, in a city that is often described as faster paced than New York and London combined. Although I’m not legalistic about it, I’ve jealously guarded my Sabbaths throughout the seven years I’ve been in Hong Kong, and I know it’s made a huge difference in my time here.

Alright, so let’s talk about why taking a day off is important, because apparently, being the fourth commandment isn’t enough.

1. God wants us to take a break from our work (and not for our work) so that we can detach our identities from what we do to earn a living. Humans were not created as simple beasts of burden; we should not be slaves to a boss, to money or to a job. We have human dignity, and having a Sabbath reminds us of that truth. Our identities aren’t found in our work, important though it is.

2. We need a Sabbath because it’s good for us. Psychologically, physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually — each of these areas of our lives are improved when we have a whole day off. Not only do we get a chance to rest, process and recharge, we also get a chance to spend more time with friends and family, growing closer to our community.

3. It affirms God’s sovereignty in our lives. Yes, there are always more things to do, more work, more studying, more errands, etc. The more intentional you become, the busier you’ll get, and pretty soon you’ll run out of time to do it all. So when we take a whole day off — free from errands, service and work — we acknowledge that we are finite beings who can trust in and depend on an infinite, very wise and all-powerful God.

There are many other reasons to take a day off, but I didn’t have time to go through them all. Here’s a great video clip I saw the other day that talks a little bit more about the fourth commandment, and I think it’s worth a watch.

Oh, and one more thing. When I first started working, I’d take my one day off a week and spend the whole thing running around doing errands: buying groceries, doing laundry, fixing appliances and paying bills — an urban/modern version of all the things that would have gotten me stoned in the Old Testament (and I don’t mean high).

Eventually, my mentor gave me some advice. If I was so busy the rest of the week that I couldn’t learn to squeeze in all these things, I needed to take at least half a day off, in addition to my Sabbath, to just run my errands. Very wise words.

What do you usually do on your days off? 

Related posts: Things I Wish I’d Known: “Intentionality,” “Submitting to Authority,” “Money Matters,” “Making New Friends

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