“One Sabbath day as Jesus was walking through some grainfields, his disciples began breaking off heads of grain to eat. But the Pharisees said to Jesus, “Look, why are they breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath?”
Jesus said to them, “Haven’t you ever read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He went into the house of God (during the days when Abiathar was high priest) and broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat. He also gave some to his companions.”
Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!’ ” – Mark 2:23-28
I grew up in a family that attended a Protestant church. My paternal grandmother was the backbone of faith in our family. She had taken her children to church since they were young and that same tradition was part of what my sister and I and our cousins were introduced to from the time we were small as well.
Lent was very important to her. I cannot remember a time when she did not fill her Lent giving calendar, and she regularly gave up something during Lent. I don’t remember everything she gave up over the years, but I do remember when one of the grandchildren asked her about it she shared with them that they could still indulge in whatever they gave up on Sundays and Wednesdays during Lent. Those days, for some reason, were not included. She said it with such seriousness that we all believed her.
There were a few years that I made giving something up for Lent a practice (and no, I did not indulge in whatever I had given up on Wednesdays and Sundays). But one year as we approached Lent, I started thinking about what I might give up. As I prayed about it and thought about it, I found God calling me to add something to my life instead. I felt like He was asking me to spend more time in prayer, more time in my personal reading and meditating on His Word.
That did not sound much like the Lenten season I knew from growing up. But, with further prayer and consideration I just could not shake it. This season of giving something up was to be, for me, a time of taking something new on.
In doing this, I learned that the following was true: to add something to your life, you often need to give something up. For me, more time with Him ended up largely replacing a habit of mindlessly watching television. It was often my go-to in the mornings after I had my quiet time and a cup of coffee or as I folded laundry after my kids had gone to bed. Instead I found myself practicing times of prayer or quietly singing or humming the songs we had sung in worship that week.
And, what I found in focusing on adding something to my life rather than taking something away was I wasn’t rushing to add back into my life what had quietly slipped out of it. Unlike my grandmother who every Easter greatly enjoyed being able to go back to enjoying regularly that which she had given up, I didn’t find myself running to turn on the television on Easter morning. In fact, the changes I had made in my schedule had become new habits which I wasn’t looking to immediately change.
So, what does all this have to do with the Sabbath? If we recognize the Sabbath as a day of rest instead of focusing on denying oneself such as what many still often do during Lent, we may find something surprising happening. Maybe not at first, because no doubt in the busyness of our lives today there will be some internal struggles as we try to grasp the concept both mentally and physically of taking a day of rest. But slowly, new habits will be formed and what is new will take the place of the old maybe without us even realizing at first that it is happening.
An added and surprising bonus. . . as our habits change, we find our lives more aligned with our priorities. As Christians, if our top priority is following God, we should count it a privilege to be more aligned with Him.