God Story: Pursuing Sabbath with Bonnie Tesch

I was in an introductory Bible class at my first church in Iowa City when I first heard about Sabbath: a day of rest dedicated to God, His fourth commandment.

At the time, I was a resident in internal medicine working 60-80 hours a week, plus one or two weekends each month. A day of rest to focus on God sounded wonderful — but how could I do this? I spoke to my pastor, who said that Sabbath was not so much about a certain day, but rather carving out time in my schedule to rest and focus on God. With some effort, I was able to find a few hours each week to rest and even fellowship with other believers.

Several years later, I moved to Milwaukee, got married, and served in missions in Africa with my husband, Tim. Upon our return, we realized the strength of consumer-orientation in our culture, and made a conscious decision to not shop on Sundays. In his book “Sabbath as Resistance,” theologian Walter Brueggemann says, “Sabbath is the most difficult and most urgent of the commandments in our society… and it becomes a decisive, concrete, visible way of opting for and aligning with the God of rest.”

After we had children, it became more challenging to practice Sabbath and truly set that time apart. Our family consistently attended worship services, and we did not work on Sunday unless I was on call, but Sunday afternoon was more like a day off. We often used the day to catch up on housework or yard work.

We came to realize that being able to keep Sabbath is a gift. We need to be free and also have time off, something the Jewish people did not have for 400 years as slaves in Egypt. The second time God commands Sabbath, He reminds them that they are now free and can celebrate Sabbath together (Deut. 5:15). These days, on Sunday, we enjoy walking outside celebrating God’s creation, and have recently started to become more intentional about spending time with other believers, as well as practicing hospitality.

Medical studies have consistently shown that taking time to pause and rest is healthy for our bodies. But as author Abraham Joshus Heschel says, Sabbath is not only good for our bodies, it is also good for our souls:

“Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul.”

Jesus Himself said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) ■

Bonnie and her husband Tim met at Eastbrook many years ago and recently returned to our congregation. They have been married for 39 years, and have two grown sons.

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