Spiritual Practice

Gimme Sabbath


Back-to-School Chaos

Pensive Student in ClassroomWhen the school year begins, I am confronted with a new reality. Gone are the long days of summer with their permission for sun lounging and twilight porch gazing. In their place arrives a full calendar; playtime quickly yields to homework.

Once the semester’s deluge sets in, we start counting the weeks until final exams. At the start of each class, I ask my students to check in quickly with themselves: How am I coping with the endless to-do lists? — and with one another: “How are you doing?”

“Raise your hand if you need a break,” I ask. I don’t want my students living in a world of countdowns. I want them to take time to refuel and refresh now. I want them to embrace hours for play, quiet time, and rest.

Where Does the Time Go?

Though students typically don’t work demanding full-time jobs, they do live their lives feeling as if they work all the time. According to research, many students are online about 10 hours a day, often using multiple devices to do school work and homework, watch videos, and connect on social media.

While most young people view this time online as a break, media, whether for work or play, stimulates our brains. The result? We feel “on” 24/7, even if we think we are using our devices to unwind. We remain plugged in, unable to unplug for reflection, reconnecting, and renewing.

But there is an alternative. Sabbath, the ancient practice of ceasing from work, is both countercultural and counterintuitive: How do we gain something by doing nothing? How do we refill ourselves by emptying our schedules?

Gimme a Break

devozine Summer Bible Reading2 TS 80706466Sabbath is about reclaiming our time. It’s an ancient practice rooted in Judaism and Christianity, based on the seven-day creation narrative in the Bible. It’s the idea that we work six days and rest on the seventh day. That one day of rest informs the other six because it offers time for reflecting on our lives, reconnecting with loved ones, and restoring our bodies and minds. Sabbath is just as practical as other ancient tools, such as yoga, meditation, and mindfulness, for helping us cope with everyday stress.

Instead of counting the days and weeks until another school break, through Sabbath we can discover windows of time now. When we switch off and step into sacred time, we can tune in to God, one another, and ourselves.


Embracing the Break

Try spending a few hours each week enjoying a tech-free rejuvenation.

First: Spend 15 minutes of quiet time by yourself, thinking and praying.

Second: Gather a group of friends who are willing to commit to attending a worship service, playing a tech-free game, or sharing a meal together

Third: Engage in a local service project.

Then reflect on what happened in each of these scenarios. What do you notice? Were you eager to return to media? Why or why not? Pray or write about how you felt. As you reflect, remember the words of St. Augustine: “Our heart is restless until it rests in you” (The Confessions, Chapter 1).

Rev. J. Dana Trent, a graduate of Duke Divinity School and a religion and humanities faculty member at Wake Technical Community College, is the author of For Sabbath’s Sake: Embracing Your Need for Rest, Worship, and Community.

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