Why is it that on all other days I set an alarm, but on this day I sleep in and take an afternoon nap?
Why is it that on all other days my iPhone and laptop are never farther than six inches from my right hand, but on this day I leave them (mostly) behind?
Why is it that on all other days my calendar is full of back-to-back appointments, reminders, and lists, but on this day there is mostly white space?
Why is it that on all other days I scarf down a dinner of crackers and hummus standing up in the kitchen or in the car on the way to campus, but on this day I make bread and chana masala from scratch?
Why is it that on all other days I live inside lecture halls, coffee shops, dorm rooms, and dining halls, surrounded by people and screens, deep in my own strategic, theological thoughts and the spiritual and emotional lives of others, but on this day I play Ultimate Frisbee outside, weed in the garden, visit with a friend who is older than me?
Because I was a slave once, but now I’m free.
And yet, like the Israelites newly freed from Pharaoh’s harsh rule, I too can prefer and return to the old familiar slavery instead of embrace my new freedom in Christ.
But God Needs Me!
The year I interned with InterVarsity I was challenged to go to campus every day for the first 30 days of school. I had been going strong for 28 days when I noticed a dull pain slowly building in the space behind my eyes. And then it spread all over my body: a slight shaking in my hands, a vague turning in my stomach, a clenching in my chest. Not ideal, I thought, but manageable. There was so much more to do. I can’t stop now! They need me! God needs me.
But then I started barking at my leaders. I started resenting the new students for taking over my life. I began to grumble to God: “If I have to send another email or meet with one more freshman or make one more pan of brownies or write another talk or schlep another Proxe station across campus I am going to cry.”
In Invitations from God, Adele Calhoun notes that this refusal to rest meant that I was still a slave to something. I was still bowing to my old familiar idols of perfectionism, efficiency, and performance. While I claimed to worship and follow Jesus and daily invited students to forsake the false university gods and follow him, my life reflected the insidious lie that I can be my own god—that while God himself works 24/6, I can (and must) do 24/7 because the mission will cease and the advancement of the kingdom of God on my campus will be compromised if I stop.
In a moment of gracious clarity, I realized that I was being just like Israel grumbling in the desert while holding their manna, and just like Peter refusing to be washed by Jesus. My refusal to rest was a refusal of Jesus himself and a return to the slavery of self-worship.
And then I remembered that Jesus was the God who taught (unexpectedly) that Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath, who came to restore me to life, who came to free captives like me, who told the parable of the servants who waited all night for their Master to come serve them.
Choosing to Trust the Lord of My Life
So I chose to take God at his word and enjoy my first real Sabbath. I chose to trust Jesus and stop while seemingly urgent ministry tasks remained incomplete. I chose to remember with my actions that he called me not only for others, but also for my own healing and freedom. I chose to remember with my time that my humanity is not a barrier to God’s transforming work on my campus.
It felt risky, but it was so, so good. When I returned to campus, I was no longer anxious and angry but ready, rejuvenated, refueled. I wanted to be there.
Choosing Sabbath hasn’t always been easy. Sometimes Sabbath has meant facing the anxiety that arises when I have to look at my own finitude and failure. Sometimes Sabbath has meant actually having to sit still with Jesus in the pain of knowing a student was turning her back on him. Sometimes Sabbath has meant asking students to choose their second favorite time for an outreach event on campus. Sometimes Sabbath has meant disappointing people I love.
But without fail, Sabbath is a gift from God I no longer refuse (at least most of the time). Choosing Sabbath is a weekly proclamation to myself of the Church’s creed: Jesus (not Kasey) is Lord. Lord of the cosmos. Lord of my campus. Lord of my students. Lord of my life. And that is truly good news.
Kasey Kimball is in her fourth year on staff with Intervarsity at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland. She proudly professes to being a nerd, a recovering perfectionist, a foodie and a devoted fan of the Boston Red Sox.