Down Home: A New Year’s Sabbath resolution

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Do you make New Year’s resolutions? I don’t. Well, at least I almost never do. The other night (I was asleep at the time), I crossed from one year into the next for the 58th time, and I doubt I’ve resolved anything on more than four or five occasions.

But this year is different. As darkness crept up on Texas the last afternoon of 2013, I decided time is past due for a resolution I should have made several years before.

A Sabbath from digital media

In 2014, I resolve to practice a Sabbath from digital media every Sunday. No Internet (except the Bible app on my tablet). And certainly no email.

This whole idea creates conflict at the intersection of two concepts that always generate ambivalence in my soul.

The first is New Year’s resolutions. I already mentioned that. Historically, I’ve poo-pooed resolutions because (a) they’re annoying, and (b) they usually don’t work. If you don’t think they’re annoying, try working out in a gym the next two weeks. And if you think they work, go back to the gym in about three weeks. You’ll see, both times.

The second is Sabbath-keeping. Frankly, I’ve always found it the most difficult of the Ten Commandments. Jesus even seemed to waffle, when he said the part about Sabbath being made for people and not people for the Sabbath.

When I was a kid, we were big Sabbath-keepers. We didn’t go to movies, go swimming, wash the car or mow the lawn on Sunday. And if I could define “Sabbath” that narrowly today, maybe I wouldn’t have a problem.

I changed my definition

But the problem is I’ve changed my definition, or at least developed a broader definition. As an adult, I’ve watched movies, swam, washed the car and mowed the lawn on Sunday—maybe a few times all four in the same afternoon—and didn’t consider I’d broken the Sabbath.

Sabbath isn’t so much about laboring on Sunday (or Saturday for some of our friends) as it is losing focus. I work indoors for a living. When I get outside and enjoy nature—whether it’s working in the yard, enjoying a run, going for a ride in the country—I appreciate God’s handiwork in a way that’s, well, holy. And so doing some things on Sunday doesn’t seem like sinning, especially when it breaks the monotony of routine and refreshes body and/or spirit.

So, in my life today, the Internet and email cause me to break my Sabbath focus more insidiously, frequently and irreparably than anything else. Just a quick peek, and the next thing you know, I’m working. Or worrying about work, which is worse. The best solution seems to be to lay off.

Holding myself accountable

You may be wondering why I’m telling you all this. It’s a way of holding myself accountable. If I’ve made a promise out in public, I’ve got more incentive to keep it. And, God knows, I really need to keep it.

While I’m on a roll, I’ve decided to make another resolution. But I’m not going to tell you. It may be goofy, but it’s not embarrassing. Still it’s really only between me and four other people. So, I’m going to tell them and let them hold me to it.

And if you send me an email on Sunday, don’t expect to hear from me until Monday.

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