Thoughts on Work, Sabbath, and Eugene Peterson

peterson quote

Outside my window the world glistens, all shined up by an early morning rain. And Jeffrey is singing as he gets ready for school. It’s a melody I can’t quite make out but one I know well. Band competition season is over and he feels lighter, freer, excited about the opening up of time before him.

This past weekend, the high school marching band traveled to Hershey, PA (the sweetest place on earth) for their last big hoopla and the homecoming was a deep sigh of satisfaction. Job well done.

Yesterday, he went to get his hair cut.

“It’s a new beginning,” he said to me, practically floating off the ground.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Sabbath in these recent weeks. Our little Bible study group has been reading Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton and last week our chapter was on keeping Sabbath. One thing Barton talks about is the shift Christians made from the Jewish Saturday Sabbath to Sunday.

In the Christian church we have shifted our day of worship to Sunday in order to commemorate Jesus’ resurrection weekly; it’s a great idea, but something has certainly gotten lost in the translation. Most Christians don’t even think about the resurrection on a normal Sunday…”

This struck me as a hard truth and I wondered what would happen to our ideas about Sabbath if we held the resurrection nearer and dearer. I wondered what that might look like in our busy, workaholic, secularized, excessive, stuff-drenched lives.

Jeffrey’s simple joy at a job well-done convicted me of how little I set aside time to contemplate my own work. How often do I use my slow time to thank God for the work he has invited me into?

I wrote a chapter on Sabbath in my own book too, and the words I penned are still taking root in my soul. In Playdates with God I quote Eugene Peterson from a Q ideas interview with Gabe Lyons. In the interview, Peterson says we struggle to set healthy boundaries in our work because we want to be like God.

Work is not a bad thing. God appears in the pages of scripture as a worker, and he works for a whole week before he takes a break and rests. … Work is a great gift and is part of the whole business of living the Christian life. Jesus was a worker and grew up as a carpenter. So one of the things we can do as Sabbath-keepers is give dignity to work.”

But we conveniently forget that an imitation of God involves resting.

“Every day is a Sabbath day,” my pastor said in Bible study last week. “If you look at scripture, you see that God ended every day but the Sabbath.”

What does that mean for my life?

What if I saw Sabbath not as a break from work, but as a part of it? What if I saw work as a part of Sabbath? What if these two things that appear so separate are really two sides of the same coin? When I set aside time to consider my work, it gives room for that deep sigh of satisfaction, the joy of beginning again each week.

This gives new meaning to the work I do. It opens the eyes to the unfolding of all moments as holy.

And it fills me with joy. In fact, I might just get a haircut today.

Each day a new beginning.




  1. says

    Work, rest, work, rest……….it is a cycle. Meditating (again) on the Sabbath chapter from ‘God in the Yard’ and your words fresh in my head. I think God is trying to tell us something.
    Thank you for the sacred echoes.

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