No, I'm not referring to the federal deficit, although that's certainly a topic worthy of much more discussion (and a solution!).
So...what are we
- and by "we" I mean we Christians -
stealing from our children?
We are stealing from them the personal experience and blessing of God's gift of Sabbath rest.
The past few weeks I've talked to a number of other pastors, and we're all experiencing the same Sunday morning phenomenon: anemic worship attendance. These pastors, like me, serve congregations that are growing and seeing a regular influx of new people; a healthy percentage of our worship attendance every Sunday is first time guests or people who have started attending church with us in the past 3-6 months.
But many of our members aren't there (and neither are their children).
What each of these pastors know is that if many of our folks just added one more Sunday each month in worship attendance, we would see a 50% increase in worship attendance overall!
But I'm much more concerned about something else. I'm concerned about the heritage we're leaving to our children - or, more accurately, failing to leave to our children. Our children are not experiencing God's gift of Sabbath rest each week, one day out of seven - the way God designed it in the beginning of creation.
Not only are our adult lives driven and overscheduled and without balance or margin at the beginning of the 21st century...our kids lives are just as hectic. They are learning to live (or would that just be learning to survive?) at a pace that is unhealthy and against their nature.
God created us as creatures who require rest and renewal - physically, but also emotionally, psychologically, spiritually - in every dimension of our being. We have to sleep every night in order to function the next day - we will eventually collapse from exhaustion without sleep.
God also created us with a built in rhythm for rest - weekly; one day out of seven. And God said, "Do as I have done." God set the example by creating for six days (however you choose to measure those days), then resting the seventh day, and consecrated it, making it holy (set apart for other purposes).
Yes, God created work - please understand: work is good! God's work in creation is good; our work in creating and using our gifts and talents and skills is good! Our lives are significant in part because of our work - given to us by our Creator BEFORE the fall..work was always part of God's design for us, even in Eden.
But God says work isn't everything; it doesn't completely define you or me. God gave us "Sabbath" - this day of rest - as a gift. He commands us...but also gives us permission, to stop our daily work, our daily activity, our regular schedule, whatever that looks like.
Cease and desist! Put down your tools, set aside your pen, close your laptop, shelve your books.
The purpose of this stopping is so that we can fulfill an important purpose for which we were created, "to glorify God and enjoy him forever." Here's the problem:
Our children are being robbed of this blessing - to fulfill their most important purpose, and to enjoy their most important relationship.
Instead of being taught this rhythm of Sabbath rest and receiving the renewal and blessings that come with it, we - we Christian parents - are letting the kids sleep in if they don't feel like going to church or Sunday school. Or we're letting sports interfere with Sunday morning worship. Or we're choosing to "worship God" on the lake, or at the amusement park, or at the relatives (who aren't taking us to church with them on Sunday, either).
It gives me no pleasure to write this, but understand this: God will judge us - Christian parents! - in this area. Have we been faithful in modeling for our kids and giving them the gift of Sabbath rest and worship?
But just as sobering as God's judgment is the loss our kids are experiencing right now as they rush from one activity/one commitment/one responsibility to another...without knowing that they have permission to rest.
How sad. And how wrong of us to take this from them.
Isn't it amazing? If we rob God (of his glory and worship on Sundays), we also rob our children (of rest, renewal and a deeper relationship with God). And if we bless God (in worship on Sundays) we also bless our children with these gifts for which they were created. Either way, when we do the one, we also do the other!
I'll be addressing this topic again for the next two Sundays (May 16 and 23) as we continue to consider The Rest of Your Life: Creating Balance, Margin and Peace.
I invite you to be there to learn more about the blessings of God's gift of rest for you and your children, and also learn ways to unplug in the midst of our hectic, exhausting culture.