Sabbath Encouraged During College Years

Bob Chell

“Everything can be something different.” So said Alfred Adler, colleague of Sigmund Freud and founder of the Adlerian school of psychology. This insight into the paradoxical nature of human behavior rings true in our own lives as well as in the lives of others. Students know it best from hours staring at a blinking cursor as the deadline for their term paper draws closer. What appears to be laziness or indifference is in actuality it’s opposite; excessive concern about the grade, anxiety that the paper will not be well received and, given long enough, worry about why they’re even in the class, this university or any university at all. The fear of failure can be crippling even as it appears as indifference.

The insight holds true in the faith realm as well. Adler’s statement mirrors that of Jesus, who said you will find your life by losing it. Monday we honored the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who did just this.

Our Jewish brothers and sisters, and the authors of many Psalms, love the Law and God’s commands, although many of which appear to diminish joy and happiness by limiting our behavior. The Ten Commandments found in Jewish scripture and the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, appear to limit things promising freedom, joy and happiness. They are revered because, though they promise freedom, they deliver enslavement. The commandments were given to a newly formed nation recently delivered from slavery. They saw the commandments as guideposts and warning signs of the quickest ways back into slavery.

I have not the space, nor you the time and interest, to unfold and explore each of them but dear reader please reflect briefly on the one Jews and Christians alike have cast aside as a relic from an ancient and unenlightened era: God’s command to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy. I have served as pastor to those who were forbidden to run and play on Sundays out of respect for this command. How crazy is that? I remember when stores were legally prohibited from being open on Sundays because of this command. How crazy is that? I remember when Sunday was different from other days, when families spent time together, students and professors alike, relaxed. How crazy is that?

You know where I’m leading you. It is bizarre to forbid children to run and play, as if that pleased God, of course. Given the world we live in, and its religious and cultural diversity, it is not desirable to dictate to merchants when they can sell their wares. Perhaps, though, as we buckle down to begin a new semester, determined to keep up on our reading and get to the wellness center regularly, we ought to step back occasionally and reflect on where we are going and why. Perhaps a Sabbath hour in the midst of a busy, over committed day would be a welcomed respite.

It may be a respite but it is also much more. It is an opportunity to listen to our God and our own hearts. A chance to discern where we are going, what we are doing, and why. When we know this, it is much easier to keep the cursor moving briskly across the page.

The Sabbath, another one of God’s gracious gifts.