More Than a Sabbath: My Fast from Producing

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
Andrew O Donnell bottles thumb

The first time I fasted from producing was not by choice. I worked in Human Resources for a large engineering corporation, and I was good at it. Add increasing responsibility to a 45-mile commute each way, and the hours and energy committed to my job quickly became disproportionate to the hours and energy devoted to everything else in my life. Fasting then came as a nearly six-pound bundle of joy who wanted to be held constantly, slept poorly, and wouldn’t take a bottle. I longed to be productive (and to be acknowledged for all I had accomplished!), but instead I had to be still.

My identity had been stripped away from me, and I had to discover that my value does not come from what I have produced.

Fasting from producing is still difficult all these years later. I even struggled with writing this article. I began three different times with three different perspectives, and each time I questioned how I would be perceived based upon my work. Before this final edition, I fasted by walking away for a cup of coffee before sitting down to write again.

I question whether or not God even calls me to this idea of productivity. I see in Scripture that I’m supposed to be a good steward, a hard worker, faithful and honest. Production occurs as a by-product when I focus on those things. But I can’t find examples of when I’m supposed to focus on producing. Instead, I find production is discussed in one of two ways. In relation to nature, even when people work the fields, the credit is given to the land or to God who blesses the land. I also find examples of production being a result of where we place our beliefs and values (Luke 6:45).

And while I know that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17), the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace...) are produced as a result of my relationship with God rather than my own work.

My connection with Him is the focus, not the production itself.

On the flip side, however, I’m commanded to Sabbath. As if relinquishing my grip on productivity isn’t hard enough, I’m called to embrace Sabbath? Our church recently explored this topic, and the pastor reminded us that God didn’t rest on the seventh day because he was tired. He rested to celebrate and enjoy what he had done. I see over and over in Scripture that Sabbath is as much about trusting God as it is about getting re-energized. Letting fields remain fallow during the Jubilee Year, stepping away from the office for vacation (or just the weekend!), and leaving my corporate job to stay home, all require trust.

Will God provide?

Spending time resting in whatever manner facilitates rest for me allows me the space to reconnect spiritually. Leaving my job showed me how my productivity defined me and where I was actually placing my values.

When I paused from producing, God had a chance to speak.

It’s not easy to carve out the time. And there’s no checklist for observing a Sabbath the other six days. You could do those traditional things like leaving your desk for a coffee break, reading at lunch instead of working through, or taking a nap on Saturday afternoon. Or, ironically, you might actually produce something: an organized filing cabinet, a new playlist of music, or a freshly mowed lawn. Because at the end of the day, a fast from producing isn’t really about productivity after all.

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"More Than a Sabbath" Collection

Image by Andrew ODonnell. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr.