Last night I had the opportunity to hear Dr. David Levy speak. Dr. Levy is a highly skilled neuro-surgeon, an author and a truly remarkable speaker. He has written the book Grey Matter which deals with how his own journey of faith has led him to begin praying for and with his patients, with incredible impact.
In my career as a coach who seeks to help professionals, medical professionals in particular, who are professionally fulfilled but personally languishing, Dr. Levy threw a curveball in the middle of his talk on the intersection of faith and medicine and talked about sabbath. Taking one day in seven to rest and worship.
“I take a 24 hour period each week off, but it wasn’t always that way,” Dr. Levy said. ”I was raised with a understanding of the sabbath, but as I became a doctor I was taught that I was ‘exempt’ from it. I took pride in that.”
Dr. Levy learned though that the concept of observing the sabbath is good for EVERYONE! “I have to fight for it and schedule it.” Dr. Levy talked about how important it is to totally unplug, which he inferred meant no phone, no media, etc. He talked about how the brain physically needs this rest to properly balance. He talked about how constant stimulation through media, our electronic devices and other sources give us a constant stream of dopamine, the chemical in the brain that makes us feel good, which essentially numbs us. When we ‘unplug’ and observe a sabbath, our brain responds with a does of the Serotonin we need to function fully in society. This rest actually makes us MORE productive.
I’m no brain surgeon, but Dr. Levy is so I tend to trust his thoughts on this. The scriptures speak to this as well. The Bible repeats the concept of sabbath, a day of rest, throughout. One of the references is Exodus 34:21 “Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.”
I emphasized the last thought in the verse because of the excuses I hear when I encourage people to make sure they protect a day off. “I’m too busy” or “My work is to important.” or “I am working to serve God.” are all reasons people give for not FULLY taking a day off. God says we need a day to rest, enjoy Him and family even in the busiest times of life (that would be plowing and harvest season for an ancient agricultural society).
I had the chance to ask Dr. Levy how he approached this launch into Sabbath, because for some it may feel too overwhelming to set aside a whole day. What ‘baby step’ would he encourage?
“If you can’t, or think that you can’t take a whole day, start with 2 hours, and build it from there. Put away your phone and spend time talking to God. Do whatever you need to do to feel this connection with him. It helps me to put an empty chair next to me and actually have a conversation with God.”
Big Questions: How do you observe a ‘sabbath’ or a day of rest? Are you willing to take a media free day this week?