God willing and everything major going according to plan, when you read this I’ll have just returned from two weeks in Estes Park, Colorado. Hopefully refreshed, cheerful, and well prepared to get back to work on Monday.
At time of writing, however, the start of that trip is fifteen days away, and final preparations are proving stressful. It’s a common experience–and returning can be even more stressful. The world can do a lot of “moving on” in two weeks; how many people are really brave enough to stay completely out of touch with the office for that long?
Perhaps it’s not surprising that sabbaticals–paid time off that traditionally lasts for months–are associated primarily with the clergy (though higher educators also make use of them). It takes a lot of faith to believe that your regular world can get along without you for that long, and that you stand a reasonable chance of rejoining it when you do get back.
Yet the concept is rooted in the Bible itself–in the Law of Moses, as a matter of fact. God says in Leviticus 25:2-6, “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. When you have entered the land I am giving you, the land itself must observe a Sabbath rest before the LORD every seventh year. For six years you may plant your fields and prune your vineyards and harvest your crops, but during the seventh year the land must have a Sabbath year of complete rest. It is the LORD’s Sabbath. Do not plant your fields or prune your vineyards during that year. And don’t store away the crops that grow on their own or gather the grapes from your unpruned vines. The land must have a year of complete rest. But you may eat whatever the land produces on its own during its Sabbath. This applies to you, your male and female servants, your hired workers, and the temporary residents who live with you.”
Talk about requiring faith to take a break. The modern equivalent would be a year off with no pay, no money in the bank, and no credit for the simplest purchases–just the trust that God would provide whatever you needed when you needed it, and not one minute sooner.
It was a test of faith like no other–and the overwhelming majority of Israelites, throughout their long history, failed it and pretty much carried on business as usual during the seventh year. Can we really blame them? Would we be any less terrified at the prospect?
Yet, practically speaking, we have every reason to live by that sort of faith every day. As everyone who follows the news knows, our “safe” everyday worlds of finance, employment, and personal security can be shattered by a thousand possible out-of-the-blue disasters. And we really can do nothing about that. Only God can: and only He knows whether He will give us protection from disaster or strength to come through it.
Only those who trust His care can fully enjoy their time off.